Small business owners help each other prevent shoplifting

July 8, 2010 at 2:08 a.m.
Updated July 10, 2010 at 2:10 a.m.

When Jennifer Henry identified a shoplifter in security tapes at her store, Encore Resale Shoppe, she alerted fellow local business owners of the thieves' descriptions.

Sure enough, the same women who stole from Henry showed up at Chit-Chat & Jewelry the next day.

Thanks to Henry's tip, Chit-Chat's owner, Teresa Schneider, was able to identify the potential thieves.

"We look out for each other," Schneider said. "It helps when you have someone calling and saying, this is what to look for."

Henry, Schneider and the owner of Madi Tay's, Melissa Foeh, said they've seen a noticeable increase in shoplifting within the last few months.

"It comes and goes in spurts," Henry said. "It might not even be economy-related, just people who think they can get away with it."

Foeh said she has turned over security tapes to the police department, who recognized the shoplifters who hit her store. She said police dubbed them "professional thieves."

"The police knew who they were just by looking at them. That tells you they're habitual criminals," Schneider said of the people in the tapes she gave to police.

Sgt. Felix Appelt, with the Victoria Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit, said shoplifters target bigger stores like Target and Sears more often, but that the "mom and pop" stores suffer the most from shoplifters.

Henry agreed.

"It hurts. People don't realize what they're doing to someone else," she said. "You still have to give employees hours, or they can't pay their bills. So it trickles down."

Appelt went even further, noting that shoplifting effects Victoria's economy as a whole.

"When stores have more loss than profit, it hurts the city's sales tax, which raises taxes. It hurts everyone."

Appelt said the best loss prevention measure small business owners can take is to keep a diligent eye on every customer in the store.

Henry, who's been a business owner 30 years, said she and her employees always greet customers and let them know workers are present.

"We definitely give eye contact," she said. "That way it becomes a bit more personal. And therefore, hopefully, they don't feel the need to violate us."

Foeh and Schneider shared the same sentiment, adding they've learned the types of suspicious behavior to look for.

Appelt said bi-annual loss reports filed by businesses can reach well into the thousands of dollars.

The Crime Prevention Unit hosts a loss prevention meeting every month in the mall for businesses to discuss and compare their loss prevention methods.

"Thieves need to be aware," Foeh said. "We will be paying attention, and this is not going to be happening anymore."



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