Thieves often take aim at stores geared toward young people
Each summer, petty theft increases dramatically in stores across the Island, according to police and proprietors of retail businesses. Storeowners repeatedly catch shoplifters attempting to steal merchandise and turn them over to the police, but according to local law enforcement, some businesses are targeted more than others.
Lieutenant Tim Williamson of the Oak Bluffs Police said last week that shops offering merchandise that appeals to a younger clientele are the ones from which police most often receive calls. He added that storeowners whose shops are hit repeatedly are more likely to report theft.
"My belief," the lieutenant explained, "is that we notice it more in certain stores, because certain shop owners are more vigilant and bring it to our attention. But I think it's happening more than in just the stores where it's being reported. The stores that typically report it are the stores where the merchandise is more geared toward young people, so they seem to be targeted more."
Where it's happening
Lori Welch is the owner of Basics and Eastaway clothing stores, both on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Her stores sell apparel, shoes, and jewelry that appeal to young people, and both businesses are frequent targets for shoplifters.
In the June 25 issue of The Times, police described a call on the afternoon of June 20, when Basics employees caught two young women attempting to steal merchandise. Melissa Boyd, 19, of Edgartown, had stolen the shirt she was wearing, as Michelle Plesser, 22, hid stolen merchandise in a baby carriage carrying two infants, according to the police report.
Ms. Welch said that in nearly 30 years of business, shoplifters have not been as big of a problem as they have been this year and that thieves have become more shameless.
"It's all over the place," she said. "It's happening in the dressing rooms, but it's also happening right on the floor, very brazen."
Who shoplifts and how do they do it?
According to Ms. Welch, there is no profile for a typical shoplifter. She has reported thieves whose ages range from teens to middle age, and she has caught thieves who looked clean cut, as well as those who looked disheveled. Of shoplifting techniques, she said, "People will try to befriend you, and then steal from you anyway. Oftentimes, people purchase something and steal something, so it's almost a false honesty."
Erick Anderson, owner of Trader Jack's on Circuit Avenue, agreed that the problem has grown dramatically this year, and most of the theft he has reported has involved high-school age kids.
"Honestly, I think it's worse this year than in years past," he said. "I think it's the economy. Kids just don't have enough money to buy things, so they steal stuff. They think they're entitled."