Monroe’s East Snohomish County Retail Theft Prevention Group has been working hard to make shoplifting in Monroe and other areas a bit more challenging for local would-be thieves.
The group, which meets on a monthly basis at the Ben Franklin craft supply store in Monroe, is the result of a collaborative effort between the Monroe Police Department, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and local retail establishments in Monroe, Snohomish and other regions, as well. The meetings are currently being facilitated by Monroe Police Sgt. Paul Ryan, who is hoping to eventually pass the torch on to a business owner or other individual with ties to the local retail district.
“I’m kind of seeking to transition the leadership of the group to a member of the business community,” said Sgt. Ryan during last week’s meeting. “I just wanted people to be thinking of that.”
He stated that his anticipated timeline would be for the transition to occur by October or November.
The Monroe Police Department would remain involved in the group as a partner. Several members of the Monroe Police Department, including members of Monroe’s ProAct team, were in attendance at the meeting, as well as a member of the Snohomish Police Department.
Loss prevention specialists and management-level employees from Monroe retail establishments like Rite Aid, Albertson’s, Lowe’s, Safeway and others gathered last week to discuss new incidents of retail theft or attempted retail theft that they had experienced since the previous meeting. Each store was given the opportunity to show surveillance photos of alleged shoplifters who had gotten away with store merchandise.
Sometimes, the would-be thieves didn’t quite make it out the door. Occasionally, after strolling through an establishment for an extended period of time, the suspects simply lost their nerve and walked out of the store leaving shopping carts full of merchandise behind.
For many store employees and managers, the images of the alleged thieves caught by surveillance cameras often showed familiar faces. Several times law enforcement officers knew the suspects by name and were able to share that information with store representatives.
Sgt. Ryan shared with Monroe City Council recently that many of the area’s prolific shoplifters are addicted to heroin. They are typically repeat offenders who will attempt to steal anything from groceries to chainsaws to copper fittings from Lowe’s.
He also explained that the Monroe area, particularly along the U.S. 2 corridor, has seen a 100 percent increase in incidents of retail theft in comparison to last year. This is what prompted them to take action and form the prevention group.
Criminal methodology varies between thieves attempting to conceal stolen items while fleeing the store, to others who just boldly load up shopping carts and blatantly walk out the front doors. Shoplifters often work in pairs and even occasionally involve small children in their activities.
Grocery stores reported that they have been experiencing an extremely high rate of alcohol theft. Thieves will enter the store with several empty cloth reusable grocery bags, fill them with bottles of alcohol and place them in a shopping cart, and simply wheel it right out the door.
Some male suspects were photographed wearing dress shirts and ties as they perused the liquor aisles in an effort to look less conspicuous.
One group of thieves made a half-hearted attempt to conceal the license plate number on their vehicle. Problematic was the fact that they had used stick-on numbers which were placed on the license plate askew and even backwards.
Stores shared about incidents of receipt fraud, as well.
Prospective thieves will often search parking lots and even dig through garbage cans seeking discarded receipts for items that they can then go in and steal. Once they have the item, along with the recovered receipt, they can then return the item for cash or a gift card.
The retail theft prevention group has thus far proved to be a useful tool as far as identifying alleged perpetrators. It has also allowed store management and loss prevention employees the opportunity to spread word when an individual is known for being confrontational, violent or otherwise dangerous.
Anybody who is interested in attending the meetings or taking over leadership of the group should contact the Monroe Police Department at (360) 794-6300.
The Monroe Police Department stressed heavily that all suspected individuals shown in surveillance photos are innocent until proven guilty.