Local retailers, law enforcement ramp up efforts to curb shoplifting

In-store thieves will work in teams
Police say this woman was shoplifting on Jan. 3 at a store in Martinez, Georgia.
Police say this woman was shoplifting on Jan. 3 at a store in Martinez, Georgia.(Contributed)
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 7:46 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Shoplifting is a billion-dollar problem across the country, and local retailers are far from exempt.

Because in-store thieves are becoming more coordinated, merchants are doing whatever they can to stay one step ahead of the game.

“I think the best thing stores can do is going to be a combination of technology [and] cameras,” said Corey Hirsch, manager of Zanocco Ace Hardware in Rockford. “A lot of products are employing the use of little scanners inside. But I think staff walking around the stores helping customers are the best deterrents.”

Law enforcement has ramped up their game, too. Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says his department does routine patrols around retail stores so deputies can respond to shoplifting calls quickly. He says stores need to be prepared for when thieves make off with merchandise.

“Make sure you have good loss prevention,” Caruana said. “Make sure you have a good camera system so you can go back [and review footage]–outside the parking lot and inside, so we have something to go on.”

The sheriff said it is usually not safe to confront or try to detain shoplifters outside of a store.

While shoplifters will steal big-ticket items like computers, police say it’s more common for them to snatch smaller items like batteries and cosmetics. Experts say in-store thieves often conceal their thefts with things like umbrellas, baby strollers and baggy clothing.

On average, shoplifters cost retailers about $100 billion every year. According to pricegun.com, most thieves are caught by store employees who notify police.