WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ According to a survey by the National Retail Federation retailers lose approximately $40 billion a year to organized retail crime, like shoplifting. It's a trend affecting Wichita.
"When they have losses they have to recoup that somehow or otherwise then end up out of business and that gets passed on to the consumers," said Marc Bennett, Sedgwick County District Attorney 18th Judicial District Court.
While law enforcement had data on repeat shoplifters, they needed bait. Fortunately, stores like Target and Dillions donated thousands of dollars worth of merchandise so undercover officers could use to lure in shoplifters, "boosters."
"Using these items that were donated or given to law enforcement for this purpose they were able to make these transactions," said Bennett.
A shocking find, there was black market here for household items like laundry detergent - specifically Tide. "They're not doing that because they are cleaning their clothes. They're doing that because they are going to resell them on Craigslist or resell them in another market," said Bennett.
It wasn't unusual for the Sedgwick Sheriff's Office to see reports of 20 to 30 bottles of Tide stolen at a time. "You wouldn't think that laundry detergent would be that valuable of items out on the streets," Greg Pollock, Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office Investigations Division Commander.
This growing trend forced retail stores, like Dillions, to take action of their own. "When it comes to some of the ways we prevent theft in our stores you can see that on products like Tide we have anti-theft devices," said Shelia Lowrie, Dillons Spokesperson.
The months long undercover operation let to multiple arrest. Eight people have been charged in Sedgwick County. An effort only possible with law enforcement and retail store team work.
"When we can help save those dollars we reinvest it in the things that count like lower prices for our customers or better service," said Lowrie.
Posted by Greg Palmer