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Several local merchants have recently complained that shoplifting is on the rise. And Los Angeles, the country’s largest retail market, definitely feels the pinch of sticky fingers. According to the National Retail Federation, retail crime costs businesses an estimated $30 billion a year in stolen property and lost revenue. It is estimated that one in 11 people shoplift, from common supermarket items to high-end jewelry that sometimes becomes front-page tabloid fodder.
“It’s expected,” said Miguel Thomas, a manger at the Whole Foods Market at 6350 3rd St. “We have security that takes care of that for us.”
On average, Thomas estimated the supermarket catches between 10 – 20 shoplifters a month.
A manager at Trader Joe’s, at 263 S. La Brea Ave., who did not wish to reveal his name, noted they too are on the lookout for shoplifters.
“It’s not a major problem, but we do have a problem with shoplifting,” the manager said.
According to Officer Ernie Rodriguez, LAPD’s Wilshire Division, shoplifting is defined as petty theft and is classified as theft of an item or items with a total monetary value under $950. Anything more than $950 is considered grand theft, which carries stiffer penalties. First-time shoplifting offenders can face a small fine and one-year of informal probation. Grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and is punishable by up to one year in county jail or 16 months in state prison.
Some local merchants rely on patronage of regular customers as their means of security. Steve Kim, of Quaker State Liquor at 6901 Melrose Ave., has owned the store for eight years and said he has “no problem” with shoplifters.
“My customers are all regulars,” Kim said. “I know them all.”
At most, Kim said he deals with one or two shoplifters a month.
Recently, the Ralph’s at 260 S. La Brea Ave. benefited from an LAPD patrol car parked in front of the store for one week to deter would-be shoplifters (KMART at 6310 W 3rd St. has used the same tactic). The supermarket has since brought in its own loss prevention company, which has arrested shoplifters.
According to Capt. Eric Davis, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Wilshire Division, you can pinpoint the time of year when retail shoplifting will spike.
“Come prom time, kids want to keep up with the Jones,” Davis said. “And during Black Friday, the department will place cars along the Wilshire area and rotate them as a deterrent to criminals who target the area. It’s a serious crime.”
Davis pointed out that nine out of 10 arrests for shoplifting are misdemeanors, and it really taxes the resources of the department.
Joe LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation, points out that property crime represents 85 percent of all crime reported.
L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich stressed in February at the annual conference of the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association, that despite common opinion, shoplifting is not a victimless crime.
“We need to improve our enforcement efforts by creating more cohesion between police agencies and retailers,” Trutanich said.
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I work in retail and I see customers steal all the time. Every time I notify security and they shrug their shoulders and act like they don’t care! I get so angry! It is frustrating because I can’t confront the thief even though I wanna!! I witnessed it so I should be able to confront them I feel. I CARE about my job and the company I work for..they need to fire and rehire in my loss prevention dept. The security guards are to busy playing on their phones to do Anything. Ugh!