Police Make Another Arrest in Shoplifting Ring in South Charleston

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

UPDATE 9/25/12 @ 7 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Police have arrested another person in connection with a shoplifting ring out of South Charleston.

Officers say they caught up with Joseph Cook on Tuesday evening at Lowe's in the Trace Fork Shopping Center along Corridor G.

Cook had a drill and an impact driver in his pants. The tools were valued at almost $300.

Police say they were investigating Cook as part of a shoplifting ring where merchandise was being stolen and then sold at pawn shops.

One other person has been arrested in the case.

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- South Charleston Police have recovered thousands of dollars in stolen goods.

Detectives tell WSAZ.com tools, drills, GPS devices, camping and fishing equipment were all obtained with search warrants Wednesday afternoon.

Police say Sam Ranson was caught in the act stealing from Cabela's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain and Walmart and then pawning the items. He was arrested and charged with fraudulent schemes on Tuesday.

Stealing and pawning is something police are trying to stop using technology. An online database called "Leads Online" helps track stolen or missing items nationwide.

"We've solved burglaries while on scene of the burglary because I can access this on my cell phone," South Charleston Police Detective C.A. Cook said.

An ordinance in cities and Kanawha County require pawn shop owners to enter serial numbers, makes and models of anything brought through a pawn shop's door. If it's stolen, police will have a record of who pawned it and can make an arrest.

"Crooks will go from store to store," Cook said. "And the time we catch them they'll have $30,000 or $40,000 worth of merchandise that they've stolen instead of letting that build up. We can catch them on maybe the first or second pawn."

Police departments have to pay several thousand dollars per year for leads online. It doesn't cost pawn shop owners anything to enter information into the database.

Bob Keller's pawn and survival shop wasn't entering the items Ranson allegedly stole. He says he was unaware he had to enter the information into the database.

"We're just a small, family-run business, trying to make a living and trying to do it honestly, and it's unfortunate that this happened," Bob Keller said. "The truth is that I just didn't know."

Keller says he's closing his doors to keep thieves out, while police try to stop illegal pawns before they spiral out of control.

There are less than 30 pawn shops in Kanawha County.

Police say Leads Online has been overwhelmingly successful, and other departments are now using the database.

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