You can't get anything past Walmart's new APIs

Posted 4/12/24

Okeechobee has seen a surge in arrests at the local Walmart in recent months as new asset protection associates take care of business.

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You can't get anything past Walmart's new APIs


OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee has seen a surge in arrests at the local Walmart in recent months as new asset protection associates take care of business.

One of the recent arrests took place on April 3 and was on a much larger scale than the norm.

Amanda Davis, 41, U.S. 441 Southeast, was arrested by Okeechobee City Police Officer Ted Van Deman and charged with grand theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine and introduction of contraband into a detention facility.

Officer Van Deman was dispatched to the store at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday after a call from asset protection investigator (API) Matt. The API explained he had been following a woman throughout the store with personnel and cameras. He thought she was leaving earlier when she was stopped by garden personnel, but she went back into the store. He said the woman, identified as Davis, grabbed packages off the shelves, went into hidden areas, removed the items from their packages and concealed them in her clothing and in merchandise containers. Matt said he watched her for a long time as she concealed items. “I even observed the woman go to the men’s section and crawl into a clothes rack to conceal herself while she pulled the backpack in with her, presumably to conceal more items,” said the API.

As Davis left the store, Sgt. Dawn Wendt was outside waiting for her and stopped her from leaving. She was asked to remove all the stolen items from her person, and she reportedly took a shiny pink lockable box out of her purse, telling officers not to touch it because it was hers. Later, she said it belonged to her boyfriend. The report notes the box smelled of drugs, and drugs could be seen so they forced the top open and allegedly found pills, marijuana and crystalline granules, a stem pipe and a spoon.

Matt ran all the stolen items through the register and came up with a total of $859.

Bond was set at $6,250.

Police Detective Savanna Yates said shoplifting arrests have increased dramatically, and this is due to the professionalism and thoroughness of two new APIs. Policy would not permit her to name them or them to speak to the newspaper.

The detective said the APIs have cut down on work for the detective squad immensely because in the past, when a shoplifter was spotted on video, the case was assigned to a detective to investigate and try to identify then get a warrant. Now, the new APIs are spotting the thefts while the shoplifters are in the store. “Believe me, catching them in the act is a quick and easy process.” Road patrol officers can get there in time to make the arrest before the person leaves the property.

“They have been killing it,” said Yates. "In March, we had 29 Walmart shoplifting arrests. In previous months, the arrests for shoplifting could be counted on one hand. “They are coming in so fast, I can’t process them fast enough,” she said. “These men are watching! You aren’t going to get away with it.”

Walmart is cracking down heavily on shoplifters. In 2023, Walmart reported an $11.29 Billion loss.

Some of the thefts were made by what they call skip scanning, where they scan one item and bag two. Some by people walking through the store filling their own bags and walking out without paying. Some were even bold enough to just walk out with a TV in their cart. Some think if they slip out the garden center or the automotive doors, they won’t be caught. “I can assure you, you will be stopped,” said Yates. “We appreciate the effort they are putting into it.” When asked if the two new men had law enforcement experience, the detective said, “I don’t know, but they’d be good at it.”