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Washington Voices

Retailers On Their Guard Against Grinches Who Steal For Christmas

Sat., Dec. 21, 1996

Some of this year’s holiday shoppers are more naughty than nice. Some managers at the Valley’s major retailers said the number of shoplifting incidents is even higher than usual this holiday season.

Managers at J.C. Penney in University City Shopping Center are surprised with how many shoplifters have been apprehended in their store in the past couple of months.

Store manager Gary Linger said the number of shoplifting incidents at the U-City J.C. Penney this November and December is double the number during the same period a year ago. Linger said the store’s security manager reported most of this year’s incidents are drug-related.

At the Target store at Evergreen and Sprague, manager Bob Hingtgen said it’s typical to see a rise in shoplifting during the busy holiday shopping season.

“It has gone up noticeably since Thanksgiving,” Hingtgen said. “That doesn’t surprise us at all. That’s why we’ve done what we have. It’s a fact of life during this time of year.”

In response, managers have beefed up security both inside and outside their stores.

At Target, plainclothes security officers not only patrol store aisles, exits and entrances, they also peruse parking lots to make sure would-be thieves aren’t trying to break into cars.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of incidents outside, too,” said Hingtgen. “Folks leave packages in open view. The increased traffic warrants a little closer observation.”

Observation is one thing managers at the Valley’s newest retailer, Future Shop, train their employees to do.

Part-time and full-time workers alike are taught to acknowledge all customers.

“Customer service is a great deterrent,” said John Rudloff, store manager. “Thieves don’t like to be helped.”

At the giant entertainment store, several security measures are built into the facility. Bright red concrete columns line the entrance to eliminate the “smash and grab” technique - thieves smashing windows, then grabbing as much merchandise as they can to throw into their vehicle.

The store has extra wide aisles to alleviate crowding. It also has entry turnstiles which slow shoppers long enough to allow employees to see them as they enter. Small, almost noticeable cameras hang from the structural steel ceiling on tiny, thin steel wires.

Because the store opened a month ago, Rudoff said there’s really no way to track whether the number of shoplifting incidents has gone up.

“The holiday season is always busy and with that increased volume, comes more people trying to steal their gifts from the store,” he said.

While they know shoplifters can’t totally be stopped, the managers know they can make it harder for them to complete their task.

Linger said the J.C. Penney store’s floor plan aids in limiting opportunities for shoplifters.

“There are areas that are high theft areas,” he said. “So we put them in areas of the store that are harder for them to shoplift in. Those areas are also areas that our security officers concentrate on.”

, DataTimes

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