WILMINGTON – Police officers and businesses in Wilmington are teaming up this holiday season to crack down on shoplifters.
The Wilmington Police Department has designated three officers to patrol shopping centers in a targeted area. It includes the Best Buy on South College Road, the Wal-Mart and Target off Market Street and the stores surrounding those big-box retailers.
Additional officers will make routine stops at other shopping areas in between calls.
It's an effort to ensure the safety of patrons and to deter people from the kind of theft Seth Petit, part of the loss prevention team at the South College Road Best Buy, has seen since the beginning of the season.
"We've caught shoplifters in each of the past three days," Petit said Tuesday.
Police are hoping the Holiday 2008 Operational Plan will prevent a common trend attributed to a slumping economy.
"The economy has kind of gone downhill, larceny increased. Robberies increase during the holiday season, so we are trying to be proactive," Lt. Kathy Cochran, of the Wilmington Police Department, said.
Petit said they always add extra security during the holidays. But he said knowing there is an officer in the area makes them feel better.
"It just helps us out to deter any would-be shoplifters as well as lets them be in position to respond if we need them quickly," Petit said.
He says people try to steal small things like CDs, DVDs or simply try walk out of the store with an item in hand.
But officers say no matter what the item is, there will be consequences to pay.
"People that are repeat offenders for shoplifting, we are taking to jail. We are not releasing [them] on a citation, they're going to jail," Cochran said. "We are carrying them out of the area, and I think that has had a positive impact."
The Wilmington Police Department said by this time in November, there were 32 shoplifting incidents. So far this month, they've had 24.
The Holiday 2008 Operational Plan will be in place until the end of the year.