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Prosecutor and Sheriff crackdown on crime at Walmart

When a class of high school students visited King George Circuit Court earlier this year to view the legal proceedings, 17-year-old Katie Barnum was asked what she learned during her day in court.  Her response was, “Don’t steal from Walmart.”

That would appear to be good advice.  According to King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann, since the first of the year 27 people have been convicted in King George in connection with thefts at the

Walmart store located just off U.S. Highway 301 in Dahlgren.  And, Gusmann said, “There are many more cases pending.”

The Walmart, which opened in 2011,  has become a hub for steadily growing business activity in the Dahlgren area. But it has also become a site of numerous crimes, possibly because of its location near the U. S. 301 bridge to Maryland.

Gusmann said she and her staff prosecute as many cases of theft from Walmart as they do cases of driving under the influence.  “To be clear - that is just theft from Walmart.  That does not include theft from any other store or from any residence,” Gusmann said.

“Walmart has brought an additional work load,” said King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey.  “But the Walmart staff has been excellent to work with.” Gusmann and Dempsey have worked closely with the Walmart and its security staff to crackdown on those who would commit crimes in the giant retail store. And their efforts are getting results.

Each week there are cases involving crimes committed at Walmart in King George Circuit Court or in King George General District Court. Last week, Franklin Blevins, 28, was convicted of conspiracy to commit grand larceny involving the theft of a $440 vacuum cleaner.

Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis sentenced Blevins to five years in prison with four years and 10 months suspended after Blevins entered a plea of guilty to the charge.  Blevins was placed on five years probation and  was banned from Walmart, a probation condition sought by the store in almost all Walmart cases.
“Theft, and not just from Walmart, is a problem in our community.

Because of the technology that Walmart has, we are very successful prosecuting those cases,” said Gusmann.

“There are two points that are frustrating about Walmart cases; first is the perception that stealing from Walmart is no big deal. We actually had a defendant say to a deputy, ‘Sam Walton won’t miss one TV.’” Gusmann said.

“The thinking being, somehow stealing from Walmart doesn’t hurt anyone.  But it does hurt someone and that someone is every other customer that shops at Walmart and has to pay more.  The other frustrating aspect is the amount of offenders that are from Maryland. It appears that they just come to Virginia to steal,” Gusmann said.

Despite the challenges, Gusmann and Dempsey are determined to keep up the pressure on those who would commit crimes at Walmart or anywhere else.  “In virtually every theft case, my office asks the court to send the offender to jail.  I hope the word gets out that we take stealing very seriously in King George,” Gusmann said.  

“Our deputies work extremely hard and are very committed to keeping our county safe,” declared Dempsey.

 

Richard Leggitt

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