Throngs of Christmas shoppers aren’t the only people descending upon department stores and malls this holiday season.
Mixed into the crowd of jostling shopper are shoplifters, who, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, can be responsible for stealing up to $25 million in merchandise a day.
While there’s no empirical evidence that the Christmas season welcomes more shoplifting, it’s believed that the sheer volume of people in stores over the holidays emboldens shoplifters, They know that store loss prevention officers have a hard time keeping their eyes on everyone, said NASP spokesperson Barbara Staib.
“Shoplifting is a crime of opportunity,” she said. “The more people there are in the store, the less likely store personnel can be on the lookout for every possible shoplifter.”
According to NASP figures, about 10 million shoplifters have been caught in the last five years, and about 25 percent are under the age of 18.
Elizabethtown police chief Bobby Kinlaw said that the department receives a few more calls for shoplifting during the holiday shopping season. Typically, stores try to have more personnel on hand to watch for and deal with shoplifters during this busy time. But more store personnel doesn’t seem to deter shoplifters, Kinlaw said.
“It usually picks up around the holidays,” he said. “But that’s not the only problem we have during the holidays.”
The other crime issue Kinlaw points to this time of year is parking lot security, which affects consumers as much as shoplifting affects stores. The chief said that the Christmas season brings with it an increase in car burglaries, purse snatchings and other parking lot assaults.
“We try to inform shoppers of several things they need to do or be on the lookout for when they go out to the stores,” Kinlaw said.
He suggests that female shoppers shouldn’t shop alone and that when shopping with children they should be kept close by. In the parking lot, Kinlaw said that shoppers would always park in a well lit area and be aware of where they park in order to expedite finding their car after leaving the store.
Kinlaw also suggested keeping any valuables, including purses and shopping bags, locked in the trunk of the car while shopping.
“We see a few more (car burglaries), but that’s mainly when people leave items in plain sight,” Kinlaw said. “Some women don’t take their purse in the store with them and say, ‘There’s nothing in my purse.’ Well, they’re not going to know that when they’re looking in your car for something to steal.”
Another safe shopping habit Kinlaw suggested was making sure shoppers leave the store with keys in hand as they walk to their cars. It will cut down the time you spend outside the safety of your car, therefore decreasing the opportunity for a potential assault or robbery, he said.