Houston retailers are resting a little easier now that one half of a sophisticated pair of alleged shoplifters is behind bars — thanks, in large part, to detailed video footage released by Crime Stoppers.
Linda Wallace Dewitt, a 58-year-old Missouri City resident, turned herself in to Houston authorities Tuesday evening after numerous tipsters linked her to a crime spree that cost clothing boutique French Cuff more than $12,000 in merchandise. West University Place Police Department, which is leading the case, is still searching for her alleged accomplice.
"You can see them taking so much stuff on the video," French Cuff owner Kairy-Tate Barkley said. "My heart sinks every time they put something in their bags."
"Knowing that at least one of the two are off the streets makes us, and many other stores in the area, feel much better," French Cuff owner Kairy-Tate Barkley tells CultureMap.
On the afternoon of July 28, the boutique's surveillance system caught the shoplifters stuffing clothing and jewelry in their large purses. The team of thieves hit two separate branches of French Cuff, one in Bellaire and another on Woodway.
"You can see them taking so much stuff on the video," Barkley said. "My heart sinks every time they put something in their bags. We really want to commend Crime Stoppers and the West University police. Without their efforts, this easily could've fallen through the cracks as just another shoplifting case."
According Harris County court documents, Dewitt had at least eight theft-related offenses on record prior to this new arrest. She also has an outstanding felony warrant. She worked as a front-desk clerk at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in southwest Houston, where a manager encouraged her to turn herself into the police after seeing the video.
A French Cuff employee working at the time of the shoplifting incident identified Dewitt from blind photo spread showing six faces.
Though none of the stolen merchandise has been recovered and one other shoplifter remains on the loose, Barkley said she and her workers have made a concerted effort to view the incident as a way to improve the boutique.
"Ultimately, this has given us an opportunity to find ways to better interact with our customers when they come into the store. We've already had a number of classes on customer engagement and loss prevention tactics.
"It's been a good learning experience."
Anyone with information on the theft, the video of which is posted below, is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477). All tipsters remain anonymous and stand a chance to gain $5,000 in reward money.