The Whitehall Division of Police is continuing its "retail theft blitz" at some of the city's largest stores, including Walmart, 3657 E. Main St., and Target, 3955 E. Broad St.

Police officers are focusing not only on shoplifters but also thefts from vehicles and other crimes occurring at or near commonly targeted stores, Whitehall Sgt. Dan Kelso said.

"This ongoing initiative is part of our strategic plan to reduce crime ... In this instance, we're cracking down on thefts," he said.

Kelso confirmed the blitz will continue over the spring and summer at undisclosed times and places.

On April 27, about 25 officers and support personnel were deployed in the department's latest operation.

The initiative included police officers but also clerks and dispatchers, Kelso said, and was carried out in cooperation with the loss-prevention departments of the retail stores.

Police arrested 13 people and filed 18 charges, including theft, drug trafficking, possession of heroin, tampering with evidence, felony fleeing, obstructing official business and possession of an open container of alcohol.

In one instance, a woman exited Target without paying for video-game equipment and entered a waiting vehicle, according to police.

The male driver fled from police at high speeds; police suspended the pursuit because of concern for public safety, reports said.

However, video surveillance and further investigation led police to the couple, who were staying at an east Columbus hotel.

Both suspects attempted to flee on foot but were apprehended, police said.

In another incident, undercover officers reported seeing a man allegedly selling heroin from his vehicle near Walmart and arrested him and his customer.

The customer attempted to hide the drugs in his mouth, according to police, while the dealer allegedly opted to hide his remaining product in the back of a police cruiser.

Neither tactic met with success, police said.

Ragan Dickens, director of national media relations for Walmart's corporate communications division, said the retailer is "happy to assist" Whitehall police.

"The safety and security of our associates and customers is a top priority," Dickens said. "We appreciate (Whitehall police) in our community and in our store."

On March 29, the department's first blitz, police arrested 18 people and filed 25 charges, also in the areas of Target and Walmart.

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