Area stores find shoplifting at normal rate

By Clarence Plank: PNT Staff Writer

The recession may have shoplifting on the rise nationally, but this holiday season Clovis and Portales appear to be bucking the trend.

Local merchants and Clovis Police said they are nabbing fewer folks with sticky fingers these days.

The Clovis Police Department reported 32 shoplifting cases from Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — until Christmas Eve. That’s 15 less than the same holiday shopping rush one year ago.

And while that may be good news for local merchants, the nation trend of rising thefts is still hitting all of us right in the pocketbook.

The National Retail Federation estimates retail theft costs businesses about $40.5 billion a year. That’s a cost retailers pass on to all of us in the form of higher prices at the checkout.

Locally, the numbers seem to be down largely due to the vigilance of employees and managers during the holiday season.

Brian Toney, assistant manager with Lowe’s supermarket in Clovis, has many of the same concerns retailers have when it comes to shoplifters.

“Of course this is something that goes on all the time,” said Toney. “This time of year people are struggling. Especially the way the economy is. I think they are willing to take that extra risk.”

Toney said shoplifting at his store has been a problem, but it fluctuates. Lowe’s has taken steps to make sure everyone working in the store pays close attention.

“We’re getting a lot more awareness from every employee in the store, not just managers and loss prevention personal, but packers and stockers as far as noticing stuff,” Toney said. “(Looking for) people that are acting suspicious. A lot of time it is a stocker or a customer who notices these things.”

Those extra sets of eyes help patrol the store and keep the inventory from walking off the shelves.

Items shoplifters like to take vary from gift cards, meat, medicine, baby formula, name brand clothes and shoes to smaller items.

Toney said a lot of times shoplifters take these items and resell them at a higher value. Toney believes many are doing it to either support a drug habit or sell the items on the Internet.

Clovis police Capt. Patrick Whitney thinks people will commit burglaries in order to support their habit rather than shoplift. As far as shoplifting goes this year, said Whitney, “It’s a normal number; statistically it’s not different. It’s not showing that it is an economy issue.”

Even though shoplifting is a serious matter for store managers because of costs, some opt not to ban offenders from the premises, instead turning them into the police.

Tim Russell at Russell’s Super Saver in Portales, however, exercises store policy of prosecuting shoplifters to full extent of the law. Only in some rare cases do they ban offenders from the shopping center premises.

“We turn them in,” Russell said. “We have caught people taking $300 to $400 worth of meat out. Most people we have caught, there are different consequences for the dollar amount that is involved.”

A shoplifter can be charged with a misdemeanor or grand theft felony if they are a repeat offender.

As in Clovis, shoplifting appears to be spiraling downward in Portales.

Melissa Bonem, manager of Beall’s in Portales, has to wait to say for sure. But anecdotally, she said, “I would say overall shoplifting has probably been down.”

“It’s really hard to tell for the fact that the store is crazy and we won’t know until we get ready for inventory. Until we find the boxes of shoes, the empty hangers that are stuck in places,” said Bonem. “So I would say within the next couple of weeks, we will be able to tell a little more about how much shoplifting has been going on.”