Police are saying Steven Lee Parker has sticky fingers.
The Gulfport Police Department on Tuesday arrested 50-year-old Parker on two charges of felony shoplifting based on an investigation conducted by the Retail Crime Unit at the D’Iberville Police Department. The charges are felonies because they are third offenses.
D’Iberville police Capt. Marty Griffin said Parker stole fishing reels from Academy Sports + Outdoors, then pawned them. Parker is being held in the Harrison County jail on bonds totaling $50,000. The department’s Retail Crime Unit, thought to be the only one of the Coast, put the case together.
Parker had been convicted on two shoplifting charges in Gulfport, where the crimes were felonies. In addition to third offenses, felony charges apply to shoplifting if the merchandise is worth $1,000 or more.
In D’Iberville, Griffin said, Academy employees were finding empty fishing reel boxes on the shelves. They reported the losses to police, who were able to see a clear picture on surveillance video of the thief.
Next, officers turned to a database that contains inventories of pawned merchandise. In D’Iberville, Griffin said, pawn shops have to report all the merchandise they take in. Officers found reels and the name of the pawn shop customer who brought them in.
Once they had a name, Griffin said, they matched photos of Parker to the face in the surveillance video. Parker’s mugshot is on file in the Harrison County jail docket, where his first recorded arrest was in August 2011, for domestic violence.
D’Iberville police said Parker worked on the Coast as a firefighter years ago, but they didn’t know much about him beyond that.
D’Iberville has three officers working full time in retail crimes — two patrolmen and a detective who handles felony cases. With two busy shopping centers just north of Interstate 10, the city has been able to land grants that support the unit. Chief Wayne Payne said grants for 2017 total $175,191.
In March, Griffin said, police had 43 reported cases of retail theft, either through shoplifting or credit-card fraud, with 26 arrests.
Police are asking that anyone with information on Parker’s alleged crimes contact them at 228-396-4252, call Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898 or report a tip on the Crime Stoppers website.