A task force in Los Angeles County has shut down 24 illegal plastic grinding operations over eight months and received recognition for its efforts.
But the five-person investigative team in the sheriff's department said it needs more corporate or government financial support to maintain its momentum.
“Only two companies have donated money,” said Sgt. Nabeel Mitry, supervisor of the department's plastic industrial theft task force. The trial program's municipal funding ends Aug. 31.
In March, the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County recognized the task force with its 2012 Centurion Award for excellence in investigations, and the state of California attorney general's office presented the team with its community policing organization of the year award.
The team has recovered intact and ground trademarked plastics with a value of $5.2 million and returned the products and materials to the victimized companies, Mitry said. Granulators, machinery and other equipment worth $444,500 were seized, and 39 suspects were arrested for possessing trademarked plastic products.
“It should be noted that since the inception of the team, with the unprecedented cooperation of various district attorneys and courts, felony charges were filed against each suspect,” Mitry said.
During April, the task force conducted 21 business and professions code-compliance checks. The team shut down five illegal operations; seized and returned intact trademarked products worth $309,180, ground material valued at $58,000 and equipment and machinery also valued at $58,000; and arrested eight people for being in possession of known stolen property.
In particular, facilities operating as Jorge Chamu Pallets and Bros Pallets and a nearby warehouse structure, all in the city of Huntington Park, Calif., were targets April 24.
The numbers for March include compliance checks at 13 relevant businesses; closure of three large illegal plastic grinding operations in the cities of Los Angeles, Bell Gardens and South Gate; return of stolen trademarked plastic product valued at $410,862; and seizure of various pieces of equipment worth $167,000.
Detectives locate and trace the flow of known stolen trademarked property such as plastic pallets, milk crates, baskets, totes and trays. They conduct surveillance stakeouts, follow scavengers making illegal pickups and trace polymer materials to warehouses and processing sites.
The task force operates from the sheriff's station in City of Industry. The city council in City of Industry authorized a pilot program addressing plastic industrial theft in mid-2011 and allocated $1.5 million for the one-year trial program that began Sept. 1.