The New York Times says that police departments all over the country are reporting an increase in shoplifting arrests — up to 20%.
Many of the shoplifters are first time offenders who panicked and did something stupid, but others are professionals taking advantage of cutbacks in retail staff.
“More people are desperate economically, retailers are operating with leaner staffs and police forces are cutting back or being told to deprioritize shoplifting calls,” said Paul Jones, the vice president of asset protection for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
The problem, he said, could be particularly acute this December, “the month of the year when shoplifting always goes way up.”
Two of the largest retail associations say that more than 80 percent of their members are reporting sharp increases in shoplifting, according to surveys conducted in the last two months.
Compounding the problem, stores are more reluctant to stop suspicious customers because they fear scaring away much-needed business. And retailers are increasingly trying to save money by hiring seasonal workers who, security experts say, are themselves more likely to commit fraud or theft and are less practiced at catching shoplifters than full-time employees are.
The Times says that $35 million dollars of stuff is stolen every single day nationwide, and about 1 in 11 people have shoplifted. Tsk, tsk.