You might not think that someone selling purses, shoes and DVDs at the flea market is a criminal. In fact, you may have even purchased some of these “bargain” items yourself. But are those Nike shoes really Nike shoes? And is this that Coach purse legitimate?
Officers with the Baltimore County Police Department like to shop at flea markets—when they are making undercover buys. During a raid at Dundalk Plaza Flea Market in February 2012, officers served search warrants on 16 vendors and seized more than $1.4 million in counterfeit goods. Some of those counterfeit items included shoes, clothing, phone accessories, pirated movies and music.
Prior to the raid, the Baltimore County Police Department received a competitive intellectual property grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to combat intellectual property crime in its area. Shortly after receiving the grant, three detectives from the department, which included Detective Cpl. Ryan Franks, attended NW3C’s Intellectual Property Theft training in Wilmington, Delaware.
The training, taught by NW3C instructors Robert (Bob) Hartnett and Scott Bailey, proved to be a real turning point for the three detectives. The officers learned how the selling and buying of counterfeit items hurts their local economy and how to relay this information to others in their department. “I would say the biggest thing we took away is that we were able to articulate…. how it’s killing our retailers in the legitimate malls and legitimate storefronts in our county to have this going on,” says Franks. “It affects our local tax base because of the inability to collect sales tax and the inability to collect income tax from employees.”
In March 2013, the Baltimore County Police Department co-hosted an NW3C Intellectual Property Seminar. These seminars are designed to inform a large group of law enforcement officers about the economic and health and safety repercussions of counterfeit products. According to Franks, several officers who attended the seminar became more aware of intellectual property crime. Several cases were made as a result of information learned at the seminar, resulting in the seizure of $20,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise.
As a follow up to the raid, officers visited the flea market again this past September with subsequent search warrants and seized another $54,000 worth of merchandise from repeat offenders. Overall for the life of their grant, the department has seized around $2 million in merchandise. “The training was very beneficial and useful especially for those detectives who have limited experience with counterfeit crimes,” says Franks. “There is so much of it out there; hypothetically we could keep doing it all day, every day.”