SCSO’s special ALERT unit works around the clock to nab holiday crooks

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- As you hustle to get your holiday shopping done, deputies are working just as hard to nab crooks.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has its own team, A.L.E.R.T., working around the clock to stop the so-called professional thieves, shoplifters and burglars.

"If we can get the people who are committing the crimes in jail during the season, it will keep them from committing the same crimes again," said Sgt. David Ballard with A.L.E.R.T.

The team is communicating online with managers, loss prevention and agencies near and far.

They'll post pictures of alleged thieves asking if anyone knows them.

In 2015, it helped lead to 267 arrests.

A third reportedly happened around Christmas.

"We'll deploy a lot of plainclothes cars out," said Ballard. "We may set them up at Kroger or some of your big-box stores in the area. . The public doesn't know who they are, and they sit out."

Besides posting up undercover, Ballard said they've got SkyCop and hidden cameras in various parking lots too.

"We try to detect suspicious activity," he said.

Meanwhile, Mid-South businesses are implementing their own security measures.

"I've run [thieves] down on foot and on kids bikes. Whatever I can grab to chase them with," said Hal Mabray.

He owns Peddler Bicycle.

After 30 years in business, his best advice is "keep people on the floor."

Ballard agrees. Increasing your presence is important, and preparing is even better.

"You have to, especially when you're in a unit that's driven to stop theft," he said.

To find out more about ALERT: and