Local News

Criminals End Up Paying The Price At Police Swap Shop

Posted September 19, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— It is the business of Raleigh police to fight crime, so they opened a business to do it.

The Capital City Swap Shop on South Wilmington Street is closed now, but the undercover officers who ranOperation Blue Fenceturned a big profit in police work.

"It's just real simple police work," says Lt. Ken Mathias of the Raleigh Police Department. "We know they're out there stealing property, and we offer an outlet for that property."

Officers welcomed suspected thieves and paid bargain basement prices for their stolen equipment which ranged from power tools to bikes. Cameras planted all over the property recorded every move.

Throughout the investigation, officers enjoyed their own little private joke. A thin blue line that bordered the walls of the swap shop is the same shade of blue that the Raleigh Police Department uses on their cars.

Forty-five suspects like Norman Hinton did not get the joke. When captured, Hinton confessed to several crimes, including the theft of Roberto Ramirez's generator.

When someone stole his power source, Ramirez was so frustrated he did not even file a police report. He just bought another generator. With a suspect's help, the Swap Shop cops were able to return the original.

"They really impressed me," Ramirez says. "I even told the police that they really did a great job."

Late Wednesday, police had arrested more than half of the 45 burglary suspects. In four and a half months, the operation produced 240 charges against 45 suspects and 372 burglary cases in the Triangle.

The Swap Shop idea is not new. Chief Mitch Brown conducted the same type of operation in west Raleigh when he was a lieutenant in 1984.

The Raleigh Police Department has posted photos of therecovered propertywhich has not yet been returned to owners on its Web site.