A South Florida police officer went above and beyond the call of duty when she lent a helping hand to a struggling single mother she stopped for shoplifting.
Jessica Robles admitted she made a decision to shoplift groceries out of desperation. She said she found herself in a situation where she looked at her the children, 12-year-old Anais and two younger boys, and realized she had no money left for food.
“Not fun, to see my brother in the dirt hungry, asking for food, and we have to tell him, ‘There is nothing here,'” said Anais, fighting back tears as she recalled how she had to tell her little brothers, ages 2 and 6, that they were out of food.
Robles said she went to a Publix on 207th Street and South Dixie Highway at the end of September. According to police, she walked out pushing a cart filled with $300 worth of groceries for which she did not pay.
Miami-Dade Police Officer Vicki Thomas was the law enforcer who stopped Robles. “I asked her, ‘Why would you do that? What would make you do that?’ And she said, ‘My children are hungry,'” said Thomas.
Instead of taking Robles into custody, Thomas ran her criminal history and found nothing major. The officer saw Robles was not a habitual shoplifter, so she charged her with a misdemeanor and a notice to appear in court.
Thomas also took an extra step to help Robles and her children. “I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry,” she said.
“She asked, ‘Do you even have food at the house?’ And I looked at her in her face, and I told her, ‘Not at all.'” Robles said.
“So I went in and bought her some groceries,” said Thomas, who purchased $100 worth of groceries for Robles.
Thomas said, looking at Robles’ sons rummaging through the bags was more than reward enough for her act of generosity. “To see them go through the bags when we brought them in, it was like Christmas,” she said. “That $100 to me was worth it.”
Robles said her boyfriend’s loss of employment led to her money woes. He was receiving federal assistance for food, and due to a paperwork issue, the aid stopped.
Robles said she is currently going to a local food bank and is desperately looking for work. She expressed her gratitude to her guardian angel in uniform. “All I wanted to tell her is thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Tears streamed down Anais’ face as she echoed her mother’s comments. “Thank you so very much for doing it for us, and we’re very thankful,” she said.
Thomas did have one favor to ask of Robles. “The only thing I asked of her is, when she gets on her feet, that she help someone else out,” she said, “and she said she would.”