A shoplifting call in Miami, FL had a surprise outcome for all the parties involved.
Miami-Dade Police Officer Vicki Thomas responded to a shoplifting call at a Publix grocery store. When she arrived on the scene, she met with the manager, who informed Thomas that a woman had filled a cart with hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries; then attempted to leave the store without paying for them.
Thomas then interviewed the tearful young woman, who identified herself as Jessica Roble.
“When I asked Robles why she tried to steal the groceries, she replied, ‘My children are hungry,’” Thomas said. “She also said that she couldn’t promise that she wouldn’t shoplift again, in order to feed her three children.”
Thomas said that could not help but think of the saying, “But, for the grace of God, there go I.”
“I asked her if she had any food at home, and she said, ‘No, not at all.’ My grandchildren flashed before my eyes,” Thomas continued. “I could relate. I was a single mom, and, without the help of my family, that could have been me. I knew at that time what I was going to do. I decided that I was going to buy her groceries.”
Thomas and her partner arrested the woman and placed her in the back seat of Thomas’s patrol car; then Thomas returned to the store and bought $100 worth of groceries.
“I grabbed my debit card, ran back into the store, and bought things that I thought would sustain them for about a week or so. When I walked out and she saw me with the cart of groceries, she burst into tears again and asked if she could hug me,” Thomas smiled. “It is unusual for a suspect to be hugging the arresting officer, but I let her hug me.”
Thomas donated the groceries with one mandatory stipulation.
“The only thing I asked of her is that she help someone else out when she gets back on her feet, and she promised that she would,” Thomas said.
Thomas also provided Robles with information on local resources where she can get help, including churches and local food banks. Robles had no prior criminal history; she was charged with a misdemeanor and given a court date.
The story might have ended there, but instead, it set off a chain of events in Robles’ favor. Robles told the media that the family ran out of money after her boyfriend lost his job, and a paperwork issue stopped the federal assistance they had been receiving. When their story made the headlines, numerous people called and offered to help the family. One man called the police department, offering to buy groceries for the family. And the manager at Publix even offered Robles a job.
Thomas, a 23-year veteran in law enforcement, did not tell anyone about her act of kindness, but somehow the story was released to the public.
“I have done similar things in the past, and so have the people I work with,” Thomas said. “It was worth the $100, just to see the smiles on those children’s faces. I am so pleased with the way things have worked out for them.”
The Miami-Dade Police Department completely supported Thomas’s handling of the case.
“It is just one more way that our officers ‘protect and serve’ the citizens of our community,” a spokesperson for the department said.
“You don’t owe me a thing; I’ve been there, too.
Someone once helped me out, just the way I’m helping you.
If you really want to pay me back, here’s what you do:
Don’t let the ‘chain of love’ end with you.”
“Chain of Love”, lyrics by Jonnie Barnett, Rory Lee. Copywright: Ole Media, O.B.O., Pugwash Music, Waterdance Music, 2000-2013.
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