Merchants Fight Back Against Shoplifters Group Forms Prevention Association To Deal With Light-Fingered Lawbreakers

The rising level of shoplifting finally got to Jeff Bond the day he caught a light-fingered 6-year-old in his store.

“I busted one girl who was only 6, and that really got me thinking about how bad the problem has become,” said Bond, manager of the Just Dollars Store in the Ironwood Plaza off Government Way.

“We get hit every day by shoplifters. Every day. We have toys and candy and all sorts of things that young people want to have.”

The problem in Coeur d’Alene is bad enough that 25 merchants formed the Loss Prevention Association earlier this month. The group will meet the first Thursday of every month, said Stacy Roberts, the loss prevention manager at the ShopKo store off Ironwood Avenue.

Bond’s out to do something about his store’s problem. He’ll hire an undercover security officer and has installed a camera and mirrors to catch the culprits, most of whom are between ages 8 and 13.

The big change for Bond will be that he’ll call Coeur d’Alene police for every incident, making even the youngest shoplifters confront an officer.

Depending on the violator’s attitude, Bond may prosecute. He wants to prove his point: He and other merchants just won’t tolerate shoplifting.

Merchants who want to curb shoplifting must create a strong, public deterrent, said Capt. Carl Bergh of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department.

Investigations for shoplifting and other petty theft in Coeur d’Alene are up nearly 30 percent since 1988, Bergh said. Shoplifting has risen as the town has grown.

“If you knew that the worst thing that could happen to you if you got caught in a store was that you’d have a Polaroid photo taken of you and put into a file book somewhere and would be told not to come back, would that be a deterrent?” Bergh said. “Probably not.”

Investigating shoplifting incidents swallows much patrol officer time, Bergh said.

Bond said each call to the cops eats up at least an hour and a half of his time. “I’ve got to baby-sit this little kid until his parents show up.”

ShopKo’s Roberts said shoplifting isn’t limited to juveniles. “Coeur d’Alene is becoming a spot of interest for the bad guys,” he said. ShopKo has been one of the most victimized by shoplifters in the area, he said.

The Loss Prevention Association discusses the worst repeat offenders, Roberts said. “We just had a couple come into town who are very well known in the Spokane area and even the Yakima area. We haven’t seen them yet, but we’re looking out for them.”

ShopKo has hired undercover security officers and uses cameras to track shoplifters. In fact, Roberts had to end the telephone interview for this story to chase down another shoplifting suspect.

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