Shoplifting in Newark; Everyone Loses

Shoplifting in Newark; Everyone Loses

Most of us have seen Facebook posts starting with the question “Do you know this person?”  They are accompanied by images of an individual in the act of shoplifting, with the business owner requesting information to assist in filing a theft report.

A recent Facebook post from a local carryout prompted the Newark Daily Times to stop in and ask some local businesses for a perspective on the problem.

Whether a retail chain, or a stand-alone small business owner in the City, the responses were similar.  People stealing off of store shelves seem to have become less fearful of being caught. Most businesses have a policy to not stop a retail thief in order to recover an item. This is largely to protect employees and avoid violence toward them in the workplace. 

This fact is also well known to thieves; the consequences in these cases are minimal to none. One local business owner relayed an experience where an individual was caught in the act. The owner demanded the item be removed from their clothing and returned to the shelf. In response, the shoplifter smiled at him, calmly picked up two more items and walked out the front door.

The NDT is told that banning individuals from a store after prior theft(s) is an option that is frequently used.  If the individual refuses to leave upon a subsequent visit, trespassing charges can be formally filed with Newark Police. Business owners report that this course of action is more likely to result in a court appearance.  Why trespassing but not theft? The initial act of picking up a soft drink, concealing it, and walking out occurs very quickly. A local gas station Manager explained that “They grab beer, walk out, and by the time police arrive the person is down the block and the beer is gone”. This leaves local law enforcement with no evidence of a crime upon arriving; This fact alone accounts for scores of theft offenses going unreported locally.

Calling the police on a banned individual refusing to leave allows law enforcement to witness a trespassing violation if they arrive promptly, and allows formal charges to be filed. When the question was posed as to what can be done to reduce the problem, opinions were close among business owners:

-The police do a good job responding when called, especially if advised of potential physical violence.

-The police seem to have their hands tied in many cases, and can only work with what they have. (see paragraph 3)

-Retail theft should be taken more seriously by the current Administration, and a no-tolerance stance should be adopted,

-When a retailer is successful in getting an offender into a courtroom, the consequences from our legal system are often not severe enough to deter like-minded individuals in the community.

The term “shrinkage” refers to the loss of merchandise through public or employee theft. This term is being seen in the news as of late, with stores in various parts of the Country closing due to shrinkage, and the inability to stay profitable in these areas.

As the title of this article suggests, everyone loses. If a store owner makes a profit on a 24 count box of candy bars by selling 20, with the last four being his revenue, the theft of four items from that box can leave zero profit. What is the choice for the business owner? Raise the price to offset theft, which is passed on to the consumer paying for the item. The customer pays more, the business struggles… and everybody loses.

The City of Newark would do well by creating a more intolerant environment for theft from local businesses. The focus appears to be needed at the top with firm directives from this Administration, as well as the local courts in administering all penalties allowed by law.  These were the two take-aways from these interviews.  Our law enforcement officers operate between these two entities, and are seen as doing all they can.

These were the commonalities among the opinions given to our questions;

Increased concern by the Administration to the problem, a stronger reputation for consequences in our courts, and supporting officers when arrests are successful and the violators are brought before a judge.

Local theft affects all citizens: let’s try to do our part with our votes, our attention to the matter in public discussion, and continued support for small business in Newark.

Your feedback is welcome,,,