Police trying to stem shoplifting at area Walmarts

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.

Once a month, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones goes into the community to meet residents and talk with them about crimes that might be plaguing their neighborhood.



The Gainesville Police Department reported 318 shoplifting arrests at four Walmart stores from Aug. 1, 2012 through last Thursday:
— 1800 NE 12th Ave. (Waldo Road) — 195
— 3570 SW Archer Road — 88
— 2649 NW 13th St. (closed Feb. 1) — 31
— 5700 NW 34th Blvd. (opened Feb. 1) — 4

From Jan. 1-July 31, 2012, there were 231 shoplifting arrests at the Walmart stores:
— 1800 NE 12th Ave. (Waldo Road) — 177
— 3570 SW Archer Road — 36
— 2649 NW 13th St. — 18

On Feb. 7, the chief's initiative led him and other agency officials to walk an unusual beat — the aisles of the Walmart Supercenter at 1800 NE 12th Ave.

Jones went to the store to discuss with the loss-management team ways to combat what GPD called a sharp increase in shoplifting at the Supercenter.

GPD reports show there have been 318 arrests for shoplifting at the four Walmart stores in the city between Aug. 1 and last Thursday. The numbers include both the store on NW 13th Street that closed when the new store at 5700 NW 34th Blvd. opened.

Of those, 195 thefts occurred at the east Gainesville store. That is more than all of the other stores combined and more than twice the number of thefts at the next most-targeted Walmart, the Archer Road location.

The number of arrests this year represents a jump from the 231 shoplifting arrests at Walmarts from Jan. 1, 2012 to Aug. 1, 2012. During that period, the Walmart near Waldo Road reported 177 arrests.

Shoplifting is not just a problem limited to the east Gainesville store.

The new Walmart Supercenter at 5700 NW 34th Blvd. opened on Feb. 1, and by 3:30 p.m. that day, a Gainesville man had been arrested on a charge of shoplifting, accused of stealing an MP3 player valued at $79.38.

That followed a trend officials say they have noticed among the retail theft cases. Most of the items stolen are electronics, cellphones, video games and clothing.

Crime prevention officers are working with store management on ways to enhance safety and to prevent shoplifting, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.

He said GPD has advised Walmart employees to change their tactics toward shoplifters. Specifically, the police suggested that employees aggressively contact suspects while they are inside the store before the crime has occurred.

Store officials, however, said they could not alter corporate policies. Walmart officials declined to comment for this story.

Still, Tobias said, employees were not happy with the increasing level of shoplifting.

"The loss prevention officers are frustrated because the numbers are an insult to them," Tobias said. "They take their jobs very seriously.''

GPD crime prevention officer Ernest Graham said the increased amount of shoplifting has less to do with Walmart and more with the demographics of where the stores are located. Retail stores near Interstate 75 and major roads, such as Waldo Road and U.S. 441, are going to have more problems with shoplifting, he said.

"Every store has an issue with retail theft. Some have it more than others," he said.

Graham said the supercenter near Waldo Road has the highest number of shoplifting arrests probably because many of the arrests are juveniles and there are a lot of juveniles in that area. Also, he said, the store might have a better loss-prevention crew that catches and reports more shoplifters.

Similar to identity theft, shoplifters are always finding new schemes and people are constantly learning new ways to stop them, Graham said.

During his beat walk, Jones said Walmart is an asset to the community. He said he would like to have off-duty officers monitoring the business and parking lot.

"The people in the community have worked long and hard to get Walmart in the community," he said.

Audreyanna Loguerre is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.

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