Shoplifting increases; store owners crack down - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Shoplifting increases; store owners crack down

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- 'Tis the season for holiday shopping, but unfortunately it's also the season of increased shoplifting. Stores across eastern Iowa are beefing up their efforts to combat theft.

Shop owners and police say the most important thing is just keeping a close watch on customers. One store owner that says the simple word "hello" is her biggest deterrent.

"Right now with the holidays, people are out there to get the stuff they need, and they'll go about it any way," Angie Crosby said.

Crosby owns the Merle Norman store in Kennedy Mall, a high traffic place during holidays.

"When people get into the stores, there's so many people in there that the clerks and the staff of the stores have a hard time maybe watching people like they normally would just because of the volume of people," Dubuque Police Captain Scott Crabill said.

"I've had a couple of things come up missing. I do inventory once a week to make sure I'm on top of that, and everything is usually, generally good," Crosby said.

Crosby says her biggest weapon against theft is simply saying hello.

"Our store is pretty small, so it's pretty easy to greet all the customers, but I think the biggest thing that deters shoplifters is greeting and customer service," Crosby said.

In her store, Crosby says shoplifting doesn't happen often, as she and her staff pay close attention, but just this weekend she did have another form of theft, bad checks.

"I had a gut feeling it might not be the best. Went to the bank this morning and unfortunately, their accounts had been closed," Crosby said.

In just the past two weeks in Dubuque, there have been at least eleven shoplifting arrests, and at least 18 more shoplifting cases were reported. The total value of stolen items is more than $8,100.

Many cases involve young adults or minors. For first offenses, those younger offenders can go through a diversion program which offers classes.

"It teaches why not to shoplift, but also that the impact that shoplifting has not only on the stores, but the prices people pay. So maybe it'll be a lifelong lesson, so we don't have a repeat offender," Crabill said.

Money lost is why shoplifting has consequences for everyone: Offenders, business owners, and you, the holiday shopper.

"You're not out completely, but as a business owner, you're out the cost of the product, so it makes an impact on sales," Crosby said.

Crosby says staying staffed is another big deterrent, just having the people to keep an eye out.

More than 200 people were arrested for shoplifting in Dubuque County between October 2008 and October 2009 according to arrest records.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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