Archive for Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Merchants, shoppers advised to be on guard against thieves

Keep alert to keep grinches at bay

November 29, 2005


Zach White saw the stranger through a window.

The man inside of Lids, 729 Mass, was scanning one of the hat racks - nothing too unusual, White thought. But then he saw the man slide a Kansas City Royals cap under his baggy sweatshirt and walk toward the door.

"I tried to slow him down, but he took off running," said White, who works at the downtown retailer.

Watching for shoplifters is a constant chore for many retailers. But as holiday shoppers flock in, the threat grows.

National crime statistics show that shoplifting often increases during the holidays, leaving merchants searching for ways to keep shoplifters at bay.

"You're looking at higher customer levels," Lawrence Police spokesman Dan Ward said. "The clerks are too busy helping all the customers to watch everyone."

According to Kansas Bureau of Investigation statistics, shoplifting in Lawrence peaked during the holiday months twice in the past four years. In 2004, shoplifting reports peaked in December with 44, up from a low of 25 in August. In 2002, shoplifting spiked from 27 cases in November to 61 in December.

Ward said the rise in shoplifting numbers often occurred because larger retailers employ private security to watch shoppers during the holidays. The more eyes on the customers, Ward said, the more they can catch thieves red-handed.

But for smaller retailers downtown, employees have to keep a close eye on customers.

Backwoods sales manager Eric Cloud helps Lawrence resident Claire Roberts with her shopping Monday afternoon in the store, 916 Mass. Cloud explained that Backwoods has not incorporated any means of deterring theft over the holidays other than having more sales assistants on the floor helping customers.

Backwoods sales manager Eric Cloud helps Lawrence resident Claire Roberts with her shopping Monday afternoon in the store, 916 Mass. Cloud explained that Backwoods has not incorporated any means of deterring theft over the holidays other than having more sales assistants on the floor helping customers.

"You get a sense of: OK, should I keep my eye on them?" said Adrian Meneses, operations manager at Backwoods, 916 Mass.

If a customer is a stranger, Meneses said he or another employee would take the time to give them careful service - both to help them find what they're looking for and to watch for any suspicious behavior.

During the holidays, Backwoods doubles its number of employees in the store, trying to keep the incidents of theft down as they help customers. But it's difficult to watch everyone all the time.

"You just have to keep your head on a swivel," said manager Eric Cloud.

Shoppers can also be targets, when shopping-bag-filled cars can become quick targets for thieves.

"What we do see is more auto burglary in parking lots," Ward said.

Todd Post of the National Crime Prevention Council said shoppers should be wary of the foot traffic, both around their cars and around them.

"There is an increased opportunity for crime," Post said. "People are out and about, spending money. There's more auto theft, more pickpockets, more purse-snatching."

To keep yourself and your possessions safe, Post said, lock your merchandise in your trunk when you go into shop, and keep an eye out for those around you.

"If it looks shady," Post said, "it probably is."


average 10 years ago

I'm supposed to believe that someone, anywhere, is stealing a Royals hat?

adky 10 years ago

LPD are too busy posing, catching "criminal" motorists (aka. revenue raising) and promoting stories of their heroic actions, to be bothered by thieves. What use is catching a thief to LPD? No use at all!

princess 10 years ago

I ran down a shoplifter once when I was in college. I weighed about 105 at the time and the shoplifter was a man that out weight me by at least 60 pounds or so. Lucky for me he was a drunk and easy to push around. The cop that came out to file the report just kept cracking up. He just loved that I had caught the guy. He thought it was hilarious.

Daniel Speicher 10 years ago

Ahhh... This article brings back some great memories. I used to work retail security at Target, Penney's and Kohl's. The holidays always held more excitement. As far as cuffing, Marion, they can still do it. It is a store's choice as to whether or not a "contact policy" is in place. In two of the stores I worked for we were able to make physical contact with the shoplifter (which usually meant just taking them by the arm as we led them back to the office, but, at times meant using force... and, yes, handcuffs... to get them inside without further incident), the other place I worked for stated we couldn't even guide the shoplifter by the arm. There are, of course, pros and cons to both policies (less lawsuits vs. less thieves who get away).

Anyway, just as a funny story for all of you... When I was employed at Penney's... The very first shoplifter I observed, I saw him stuff two shirts in the front of his pants and then walk out the east doors (the ones by Jewelry). I ran out the doors (feeling pretty pumped about getting this case) and I caught up with him in the airlock of the doorway. I identified myself and told him we needed to go inside... He acted like he was going to cooperate but then he turned, threw the shirts in a nearby trashcan and bolted out the outside doors. I turned, and started to run after him. Of course, because God has a bit of a sense of humor, my foot caught the edge of the outside door and I fell flat. I closed my eyes (knowing that at least five or six employees had already been watching the incident) and thought to myself, "DANG IT!! I let him go!" Of course, I got lucky... I looked up and saw him limping away... He had a bad leg. So, I was able to get up and catch him. Thankfully, the guy I had on cameras didn't catch which door I told him I was going out of, so none of it was on tape... Had it been, it would have been used to this day for training on "how not to catch your first shoplifter."

Alright, folks... Happy shopping!

--Danny Speicher

coach 10 years ago

adky: You have no idea what the LPD does. The LPD has a traffic unit. All that unit does is run radar and enforce traffic laws. If you see alot of these guys running radar its probably them. They have a specific reason for the unit. One of which is the government NOT the city is paying for the traffic unit out of a federal grant. Therefore the city doesn't pay their salary and they keep your taxes down by writing tickets.

adky 10 years ago

Who pays for the two LPD idiots writing a ticket for an out of state car in a downtown lot on Friday? I asked them what the offence was and was told that the car wasn't in the stall correctly. The outside edge of the wheel was slightly over the center of the hardly visible line. I went home to get my camera, but was too late. The car had gone when I returned. Those visitors surely will not be back to spend their retail dollars in our town. Happy Holidays from LPD!

pity2bu 10 years ago

Adky: Hope you never have to call on one of the two officers you called idiots. You pay the two idiots to do their job and enforce the law. It's people like you that complain when those officers do their job.

I assume you were going home to get your camera so you could get your picture taken with these two heroic officers for Christmas. I think they would have obliged you if you would have looked for them that evening.

Maybe ordinary citizens like me don't want visitors from out of town spending there dollars here if they are going to break the law. I have to know the laws when I travel to another city or town, If not I should expect to get a ticket.

Grow up, leave town or at the very least stay at home. Some of us home grown citizens think the Lawrence Police Department are very good at what they do and are very lenient considering the courts they have to put up with around here when they try to do their jobs.

neopolss 10 years ago

More hero worship. Man, these guys get annoying.

adky 10 years ago

pity2bu: My point is that these officers will not be available for you when you need them because they will be too busy measuring whether a cars wheels are over the center line of a parking stall.

Of course laws should be enforced, but I believe that these officers' time would have been better spent providing a police presence on Mass. rather than writing a ticket for a very minor parking infraction. They may have prevented the crime featured in this article. But crime prevention is not an attractive proposition for the egos within the uniform.

wonderhorse 10 years ago

So are they not supposed to write tickets for parking infractions? I thought that was part of their job. Should they selectively enforce the law?

badger 10 years ago


Did you not get the part where there's a specific part of the police force that deals with traffic infractions, and that those officers, which are not paid for by the city, wouldn't be the ones responding to the burglary call or 'providing a police presence' anywhere? Lawrence likely doesn't lose any police coverage by having a federally funded traffic unit, because if traffic were handled by the average cops, LPD might not get the same money, and might have to have fewer cops overall, some of whom would have to be tasked with running DUI stops on Iowa on Saturday night no matter what.

Cops are good people. Cops are bad people. The only thing certain about cops is that no matter what action they take, someone is going to complain that they're doing more than they should be, and someone is going to complain that they're not doing enough, and the majority of people are going to think to themselves that they would do a lot better job if they were running things over at the police department. Some of those people might even be right.

adky 10 years ago

It may be a surprise to many of you, but they do selectively enforce the law. They go after easy targets. I lived close to a well known drug house a few years ago. Several neighbors, including me, reported seeing drug activity, but when reported to LPD we were all told they don't have the resources to take care of the problem.

An elderly female friend living alone had a prowler trying to pry open her door at 2 am. She called the police then called me. I dressed, drove ten blocks to her house. I saw two cop cars, one parked up, one doing a traffic stop. After twenty minutes at the woman's house an officer arrived and apologized for the delay saying it was a busy night. Too few officers on duty!

But they do have the resources to patrol the downtown parking lots looking for criminal parking or folks driving 5mph over the limit on Clinton Parkway at 2am.

That is selective law enforcement by LPD.

adky 10 years ago

So if I kidnap a child in front of an officer doing traffic enforcement, as long as my lights are working, I don't speed and stop at the stop signs, he will happily watch?

I don't think so and have seen that to be the case. They have priorities, but are not limited to them.

Not all LPD folks are bad, but there are some who just get off from driving or riding around town harassing fundamentally law abiding citizens. At the same time there are important law enforcement gaps within the city.

adky 10 years ago

Their rear wheel was less than 1/8 inch from the center line of the paint. They had only parked like that because the SUV in the next stall was well over to one side. Any reasonable person would not have given it a second thought. As I looked I couldn't determine the reason why they were ticketing the car so I asked. I would have had to have a ruler to determine that they were parked out of the stall. It just seems a crazy approach to law enforcement.

pity2bu 10 years ago

Adky: Here we go again, I think you just like to hear yourself bitch about something you abviously know nothing about. Your mad because you didn't get a picture with those two heroic, parking ticket writing officers is what it sounds like. I think you want to hold their ticket books.

If you are so upset then quit your bitching and pay more taxes so the city will hire some more idiots, as you call them. I can see your response now, It just seems crazy, the parking, I don't see why parking and taking up two or more parking stalls is a felony, like you said above "offence". BITCH BITCH BITCH. Know wonder why you don't live any where else, the courts here allow people like you to rule.Define Law Enforcement for me, and the others here, just so we are all on the same page. I don't think you will find the ADKY Law Enforcement Definition in any of the Dictionaries.

Police Officers get paid not to think in a reasonable manner. Sometimes I think the officers are the reasonable ones and people like you are the unreasonable ones.

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