Private Sector Threatens APD With Class Action Lawsuit For Failure Enforce Low Level Crimes;  APD Not Private Security Company But Public Shaming Businesses To Act Gets APD No Where; Civil Nuisance Abatement Laws Should Be Utilized With Intervention Agreements As DA Prosecutes Shoplifting Cases

On August 4, 2023, APD Chief Harold Medina gave a public warning to the Walgreen’s chain stores about the extent of crime occurring at Walgreens stores. According to the on-line source Good RX, there are a total of 32 Walgreen Stores in the Albuquerque Metro area.

Medina said this:

“Walgreens has to take ownership for their store, for their product, and they have to develop [a] process which helps ensure that their alcohol is not being stolen and is not compounding to a community issue or problems surrounding their locations.”


It was reported that on August 14, 2023 that Chief Medina sent a letter to Walgreen’s making recommendations for all of its retail stores  in an effort to reduce crime at their store locations.  Medina’s letter was written and sent following the death of 23-year-old Sydney Wilson, who was shot and killed in a parking lot after she saw her stolen vehicle.

On July 31 a group of teens were stealing liquor from a Walgreens, then allegedly stole the car from 23-year-old Sydney Wilson and Wilson was able to locate her car at the Smith’s on Coors and Central the same day. APD released video showing the teens allegedly stealing alcohol before the shooting.  Wilson had tracked her car down with the GPS on her phone and approached it. Police said the teens crashed the car after she confronted them, and they tried to flee on foot. When she approached the vehicle, witnesses told police that 13-year-old Marcos Barela pulled out a gun and shot her.  He’s now charged with murder.

Chief Medina expressed concerns about shoplifting and theft rates remaining “high and unmitigated” at the Walgreen’s locations. He also said he’s concerned about alcohol theft, given the external threat he says it poses to the community. Medina wrote Walgreens:

“The focus of my concern is that rampant and repeated shoplifting invariably attracts criminals who commit other crimes … This behavior is dangerous, not only because of the threat serial shoplifting poses to the safety of the community, but also due to the dangers associated with alcohol use and crime.”

Medina in his letter said that the Walgreens stores that sell alcohol have the worst issues. In support of the allegation, APD released a video showing thieves calmly stealing dozens of bottles of liquor from a northeast Albuquerque Walgreens in July. APD arrested 3 men for the alleged July 11 theft. One of the men, Brian Singer, was released from jail the next day. On July 17, police found Singer with a gunshot wound while responding to a shooting in the area of Kentucky and Acoma in southeast Albuquerque. Paramedics took Singer to the hospital. Doctors put him on life support on July 26 and he died nine days later.

According to the letter, since January 2022, APD has responded to 1,000 calls for service at just five Walgreens along the Central Avenue corridor. He said the location on Eubank has seen a 20% increase in calls for service in the last six months. In the letter, Medina said these calls for service alone cost taxpayers $125,000. A review of police response calls at the Walgreens store near Central Avenue and Eubank Boulevard revealed there were 13 calls made for fights and assaults, two shootings and two thefts, along with dozens of disturbances.


In his August 14 letter Chief Medina called on the chain store to take action to deal with the theft of alcohol its stores. The suggestions were:

  1. Modifying the layout of Walgreens’ liquor departments so patrons would have limited access to alcohol and would order items and an employee would fulfill the order
  2. Limit the time in which alcohol sales occur, which would deter shoplifters from entering the store if they know alcohol is not being sold.
  3. Hire level-three security guards at their stores, which are state-certified security officers who have the ability to carry a firearm but cannot make arrests. This would be particularly important to deter underage individuals from attempting to steal alcohol.
  4. Walgreens should connect its cameras to APD’s Real Time Crime Centers, so law enforcement can get surveillance video easier.
  5. Walgreens should implement a policy where employees would have to report shoplifting and alcohol theft to APD.

Chief Medina wrote in his letter:

“Implementing these suggestions and strategies will be a win for our community. … Strong anti-shoplifting measures will make it harder for shoplifters to steal, while collaboratively building evidence-based prosecutions will send the clear message that retail theft is a serious crime worthy of the imposition of serious consequences.”

During a press conference discussing his letter, Medina  said this:

“One of the big recommendations we’re going to make is that Walgreens finds a way to secure their alcoholic products and that they ensure that they have safeguards in place so that people cannot simply grab alcohol, walk out of the store and get in a vehicle and continue. … We’re going to continue to hopefully work with Walgreens, communicate with Walgreens, see if they can meet some of the requirements.”

Medina also added that the department will look into other actions, which may include a legal step-by-step plan at each store to fix their crime issues, or the store could be closed.

Walgreens did sent a response to the letter to Medina which reads in part:

“We will review the letter and want to work with the police department to address these issues as the safety of our patients, customers and team members is our top priority.”


Carla Sonntag with the New Mexico Business Coalition said many of its members have been forced to hire security at a hefty price. Sonntag said the business coalition has started a legal fund to sue the City of Albuquerque for not enforcing lower-level crimes such as shoplifting and trespassing. Sonntag said this:

“Some of our businesses are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in order to try to protect their properties. … It’s not right. We shouldn’t live in fear of our lives. … We shouldn’t have to question if we’re able to go into a store and safely purchase goods.”

Aaron Jones, with the armed security company International Protective Service, said Walgreens contacted him after receiving the Medina letter. Jones said APD should be doing more to protect businesses in Albuquerque and said blaming the businesses for crime is not a police department’s job. Jones said this:

“There’s a lot of problems with this whole deal in general.  For one, Walgreens is taxpayers, just like everybody else in the city of Albuquerque taxpayers. And taxes are supposed to pay for protection. … “[Private security is] not a cheap proposition at all, especially if you’re hiring me. …  I can guarantee you that, you know, we put millions of dollars into providing this type of service, and we do it for four different companies all over the country very effectively.

“When you want to blame the stores … [for] the crime going on, I’m sorry, I was a cop. … We went out, and we dealt with crime and whatever. And I’m sorry for the things are going the way they are, but it’s it seems a little ridiculous to me blaming these businesses.”

For Medina for his part said the police department should not be directly involved with Walgreens stores for security. Medina said this:

“I’m here to say it is not the responsibility of the Albuquerque Police Department and the taxpayers of the city of Albuquerque to put an officer at every single Walgreens that sells alcohol.”


On August 27, the Albuquerque Journal published a guest column written by Deputy Chief Josh Brown of the Field Services Bureau providing an explanation of APD’s demands made upon Walgreen.  Brown argued  that APD Chief Medina made common sense recommendations to address the theft of alcohol at Walgreen’s stores.  The column reads in part as follows:

“APD works with businesses across the city – from small mom-and-pop stores to large national chain retailers that make billions of dollars a year. The vast majority of those business owners and managers are great partners and we help each other to combat crime.

Unfortunately, we run into roadblocks with some businesses. Most recently, that has been the case as I personally have tried to work with the leadership of Walgreens to address the specific issue of alcohol theft at some of their stores in Albuquerque. Thieves are targeting the liquor departments at Walgreens because they see an easy opportunity to steal alcohol without getting caught. We are trying to work with Walgreens to make alcohol theft more difficult and less likely to lead to violence against employees. Theft of alcohol is especially dangerous because it leads to other crimes.

The field officers I oversee are responding to these incidents every day. One frustrated officer recently asked the manager at an Albuquerque Walgreens store why they don’t have security since they are targeted for alcohol theft so often. Police responded four times that weekend to that one store. The manager said the company has decided to reduce security and that store is not on the list for a security guard. The manager threw up her arms in frustration.

We will continue to respond to crimes reported at these stores, but the suggestion that a quicker police response or using sworn officers as security is not realistic or effective. We need more proactive measures to make an impact on theft. We continue to work on APD’s role to be more proactive, just as most businesses are adapting to the criminal activity.”

You can read the entire guest column here:


On September 5 Second Judicial District Attorney Sam Bregman, accompanied by APD Chief Harold Medina, Bernalillo County Sherriff John Allen, NM Representative Marian Mathews and members of the business community, held a press conference to announced that the Bernalillo County District Attorney Office is prosecuting all misdemeanor shoplifting cases.

Bregman said his office has hired 40 attorneys since he took office in January. The office is fully staffed, and a team of 14 prosecutors will add hundreds of cases to their workload.  The 14 attorneys already assigned to the District Attorney Metro Court  Division and who prosecute domestic violence and DWI cases, which are “cases of record” requiring a court reporter, will have the shoplifting cases added to their caseloads. Bregman said his office would not do this if he didn’t feel his attorneys couldn’t handle the addition to their case loads.

The ultimate goal of the  plan is to free up more law enforcement officers with attorneys prosecuting cases. Normally, shoplifting cases is a misdemeanor and such cases are referred to as “police officer prosecutions”.  Albuquerque Police and Bernalillo County deputies have been prosecuting misdemeanor shoplifting cases on their own without a prosecutor presenting the evidence and perhaps examining witnesses. According to a news release from Bregman’s office, 40 to 70 misdemeanor shoplifting cases are going go through Metropolitan Court every month.


Now that Bernalillo County District Attorneys office is prosecuting shoplifting cases, Medina and company need to knock it off trying to shame the private sector to act and start investigating shoplifting cases more aggressivity  and forwarding them to the District Attorneys Office for prosecution.

To be blunt, APD Chief Medina’s August 4 press conference, his August 14 letter to Walgreens as well as Deputy Chief Josh Brown’s letter to the Albuquerque Journal combined amounts to nothing more than a “public shaming” and finger pointing essentially saying private sector business is responsible for crime at their  establishments when it is they who  are the victims of crime.  Chief Medina takes it a step even further when he threatens legal steps to close the stores if something is not done immediately.  What is really going on is that Chief Medina and APD simply want Walgreens to stop calling APD to report crime so the department can concentrate on what it considers more serious crime. When someone gets killed at a Walgreens is when APD would probably show some real interest.

What was really out of line and down right arrogant is when Medina said the police department should not be directly involved with Walgreens stores for security and boldly proclaimed:

“I’m here to say it is not the responsibility of the Albuquerque Police Department and the taxpayers of the city of Albuquerque to put an officer at every single Walgreens that sells alcohol.”

Walgreens has never said that nor requested that,  yet Medina proclaims APD should not be directly involved with Walgreen store security. He is right on one level, but  then he makes demands that does exactly that by demanding store layout changes, limiting times of sales, hire level 3 security guards and connect its cameras to APD’s Real Time Crime Center.  Medina complains about all the calls for service made to APD and then tells Walgreens to implement a policy where employees would have to report shoplifting and alcohol theft to APD. This is what is called talking out of both sides of your big mouth.


What Chief Medina and Deputy Chief Josh Brown need to do is request the  City’s legal Department and the  City Attorney’s  Office to enforce the city’s nuisance abatement laws.  The City Attorney and not APD should be dealing with Walgreen’s corporate council and conduct negotiations on what steps can be agreed to reduce calls for service to the businesses and negotiate nuisance abatement agreements with intervention meetings.

There is a strong historical precedent for this approach. In 2005, the City’s  Safe City Strike Force identified convenience stores that had an unacceptable number of “calls for service” which resulted in the convenience stores being considered a public nuisance by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). APD felt the convenience stores were relying upon APD to provide security at taxpayer’s expense rather than hiring their own private security company, which is exactly what is going on with Walgreens.

The Safe City Strike Force took enforcement action against upwards of 15  convenience stores in Albuquerque that had substantial calls for service to APD.  Private negotiations occurred between the convenience stores counsel and the city attorneys office without APD. A stipulated nuisance abatement  agreement was negotiated with three major convenience store corporate owners of seventeen (17) convenience stores throughout Albuquerque. The conveniences stores agreed to pay for private security patrols and make security modifications to the stores including lighting, removal of pay phones that were being used for drug transactions and by prostitutes and securing of liquor. In exchange, the city agreed to cease and desist any civil action against the convenience stores to close them for a period of one year while the businesses were monitored by APD and assisted where necessary by responding to calls for service.

Private cooperation and communication will always accomplish more than public shaming by law enforcement.

Links to cited and quoted news sources are here:,39834


DA Sam Bregman Announces Office Will Prosecute Shoplifting Cases; A Return To Basics Long Overdue That Will Impact Crime

Strike Force Cleaned Up Central and Made City Safe

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.