Be Aware and Alert to Shoplifters during the Holiday Season

Find out how to protect your store against all the shoplifters that crawl out of the woodwork every holiday shopping season.

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of joy and happiness — even with a suffering economy.

Unfortunately, this time of year also brings out the thieves, robbers, and crooks. But law enforcement agencies in New Jersey scored a bull’s-eye when they targeted a group of crooks who began their holiday shopping a bit early this year.

According to Camden County, New Jersey prosecutor Warren Faulk, a tri-state gang of shoplifters – called “boosters” – stole what could add up to millions of dollars worth of merchandise from retail stores. The boosters sold their stolen goods to grocery stores, or “bodega,” owners in Camden, New Jersey.

“Operation Bull’s-Eye” was a six-month investigation which netted 10 of the grocery store owners and their employees, and recovered $100,000 worth of stolen items from the stores. The suspects purchased the stolen goods from the boosters. More than 48 officers from 17 police agencies, including undercover cops, assisted in the takedown of the bodega owners.

Faulk said that the word had spread to thieves in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey that there was a market for stolen personal-care products, such as baby formula, aspirin, and razors. The store owners drew up a “shopping list” of products and handed them off to a network of perhaps hundreds of thieves in the tri-state area.

In a reversal of normal grocery store transactions, 40 to 60 people a day would enter the stores with bulging shopping bags and leave the store without them. Where the products ended up is still under investigation, Faulk told reporters at the news conference announcing the arrests, as the items weren’t being sold in the stores. As two of the suspects were arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike loading more than a dozen boxes of stolen items into a van with New York plates, there is speculation that the stolen items were being sold out of state.

Of course, not only retail store owners need to be concerned about boosters during the holiday season. Thieves also take advantage of the crowds, parties and holiday cheer by surreptitiously entering business offices and stealing cash, equipment, and personal property.

The thieves blend in and act like delivery people, customers or employees. They stroll around the workplace looking for an opportunity, like an unattended handbag or laptop computer. While business owners and their employees are dealing with customers and well-wishers, the thieves are stealing whatever valuables they can slip into their coats or a phony shipping box.

Many business people bring on extra employees during the holiday season to handle the increase in business. Perhaps bringing on extra security is also in order. But if you can’t afford to hire a guard or a loss prevention professional, you can contact your local police department’s crime prevention officer. Most departments will offer to train employees in basic security and crime prevention measures.

Be aware and be alert is the best advice. Be aware that there are thieves out there and they commit crimes during the holiday seasons. Be alert to suspicious behavior. Be aware of your business’ security weaknesses.

Can one enter and leave your establishment freely and unobserved? Are checks, cash, and pilferable items left out on workstations, desks, and counters? Would it be easy for a thief disguised as a delivery man to wade through the workplace without being challenged by an employee?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need a new floor plan and additional security measures. Ask the crime prevention officer to look at your business layout and offer some sound advice.

Even with our current economic downturn, people will still be out strolling, shopping, eating, and visiting, and the thieves will follow in their wake like a shark.

The holiday season is a joyful time, but one should also be aware of and alert to boosters and thieves.

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