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High Point police larceny initiative targets habitual offenders

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The High Point Police Department has a message to career criminals, those repeat offenders who get caught stealing over and over again and yet continue to wreak havoc on retail loss prevention. The message: If you steal in High Point, expect more than a simple larceny charge.

High Point is a few years into a larceny initiative that attaches more severe charges to habitual offenders and the arrests are adding up and the crime rate is going down.

The initiative began when the police department noticed a trend of repeat offenders in the area who were constantly getting caught over and over again.

People like James Anthony Merrill Jr., who was arrested over the weekend on an outstanding warrant related to theft from retail stores in High Point. Merrill has a criminal history dating back to the early 90s, mostly theft and larceny, and now he’s on High Point police’s watch list of habitual offenders who could receive felony charges for what may have been a misdemeanor in the past.

“[Merrill] has been banned from Walmart on numerous occasions. So when he goes in to steal he is effectively breaking and entering the store because he’s been banned. So he’s entering without the permission of the owner with the intent to commit a larceny -- so that makes it a B&E,” said Lt. Chris Weisner.

The initiative is working so well, neighboring agencies are coming to High Point to learn how to implement the tactics in their communities.

“We’ve got some other agencies now that are coming over applying what we’ve done because, are the people we’ve targeted, are they still stealing? Yes, but they’re not stealing in High Point. So some of the surrounding agencies are like, give us a break,” Weisner said.

Merrill Jr is the 68th person arrested under the larceny initiative this year. When he was spotted by a High Point police officer at the Walmart on South Main Street, Weisner says he was in the middle of a theft and was arrested after a brief foot chase.

“You know, these people, just like Mr. Merrill, have multiple charges in the past, been given multiple jail sentences, have paid multiple fines and yet they still continue to steal and we’re just trying to put an end to that,” said Weisner.

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