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Why Not Lock Up the Shoplifters, Not the Merchandise?

Our friend Stephen Moore's Committee to Unleash Prosperity Hotline is always a treasure trove of economic news, and it often includes insightful social commentary as well. The June 3, 2023, edition caught our eye with an especially interesting article quantifying what shoplifting is costing various major retailers.

Mr. Moore reported retail giant, Target, reports in its first-quarter earnings report that “theft and organized crime” may cost the chain $1.3 billion in losses this year. Who pays for this? The stores and then eventually prices rise on law-abiding shoppers to compensate for the cost of the theft.

(We will forgo the obvious schadenfreude of woke Marxist Target getting hurt by the policies of the elected officials it supports.)

So now, Steve Moore reported, retailers are retaliating to the shoplifting epidemic. In Chicago, one Walgreens store is experimenting with a new layout that locks away all but two aisles of products from shoppers (see photo). This is the kind of security measure usually restricted to expensive jewelry stores.

The NY Post reports that in the Big Apple retailers are locking away: dishwashing liquid ($2.19), lip balm ($2.79), toothbrushes ($3.99), candies ($3.99), and canned goods. Customers are required to ring a bell and then wait for employees to eventually get the products. Why? Because in New York, shoplifting of less than $1,000 is now a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor. No surprise then that retail thefts have spiked by 77% over the past five years.

Steve Moore’s reporting got us looking into the larger issue of the “shoplifting epidemic” and we discovered some predictable and some bizarre outcomes in response to the epidemic.

First, here's the bizarre: Colorado's KDVR TV reported five employees at a King Soopers grocery store in Greenwood Village were terminated for holding a shoplifting suspect and calling the police.

The self-confessed shoplifter, 54-year-old Darren Heurtevant, was armed with a boxcutter which he used to cut the security tag from a cellphone. Heurtevant was on parole at the time and can be heard asking officers if they can just write him a ticket.

Officers told Huertevant no, and that he was being arrested for felony menacing and two misdemeanors, violation of a protection order and drug possession. Officers found a baggie with white powder in Huertevant’s pocket that later tested positive for methamphetamine.

But the five employees (assisted by two customers, we might add) got fired for stopping this slimeball.

However, it turns out King Soopers is not the only big retailer to fire employees who try to prevent shoplifting.

Our quick Google search revealed stories from all over the country identifying Walmart, Best Buy, Big Lots, Kroger, Dollar General, Lululemon and other big retailers firing employees who intervened to stop shoplifters.

The retailers claim that they have non-intervention policies to protect employees, but we are more inclined to believe Pressley Swenson who said she was fired from King Soopers for calling 911, “Because they don’t want a scene. They want to just be able to handle it in-store.”

Julie Olivett, who was also fired from King Soopers added, “As a matter of fact, King Soopers said if the police weren’t called and we would have let him go, then none of us would have been fired.”

So, if the big retailers don’t want employees to stop thieves why should the police bother to arrest them in the rare circumstances when they encounter retail theft?

It turns out they often don’t. In fact, shoplifting as a crime has been downgraded in jurisdictions all across the country, especially in Democrat-run cities and jurisdictions with Soros-backed prosecutors.

So, here’s the predictable outcome we alluded to above: San Francisco and Portland and other cities with slap-on-the-wrist laws against shoplifting have seen the steady flight of retailers, with stores such as Whole Foods and Walmart closing locations in shoplifting hotspots. And those that haven’t closed have resorted to the security measures cited in Steve Moore’s article, which make the shopping experience about as inviting as a prison visit.

So, who pays and who profits from this shoplifting epidemic?

Obviously, the crooks profit, because their job – sometimes run through well organized gangs – has become laughably easy in places like San Francisco. But we are guessing that Jeff Bezos and Amazon, along with services, such as Door Dash, have also seen an increase in sales as customers opt for home delivery, rather than face the gantlet of security measures at brick-and-mortar stores.

So, who pays? Clearly, it’s the shareholders in retailers and retail rental space companies who have seen their profits literally stolen one lip balm, one cellphone and one bottle of dishwashing liquid at a time.

The bottom line? If you can’t dump your local Soros-prosecutor or soft-on-crime legislature, you better dump your retail stocks.

  • King Soopers

  • Shoplifting epidemic

  • crime wave

  • prosecutions

  • Soros prosecutors

  • big city crime

  • Walmart

  • Whole Foods

  • Amazon home delivery

  • stock prices

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