City police advise storeowners
By Michael Prochaska
Downtown retailers met last week to discuss shoplifting scenarios that were, for many small business owners, based on not-so-hypothetical realities.
Madison Police Department Corp. Phillip Malcom debunked myths while answering questions about theft.
“Don’t ever profile anyone on stealing because the one that you’ll be watching will be the honest person, and the one who you’re not watching will be stealing from your store,” he said. “You have to learn to be observant. You have to learn to multitask.”
Municipal Court Judge Charles Merritt said shoplifting constitutes a misdemeanor if the merchandise totals $300 or less. Stealing items totaling more than $300 is a felony, he said.
For second offenders, Merritt said he gives the perpetrator two choices: a 60-day stint in jail or the option of holding a sign heralding one’s crime.
“I’m going to order the offender to sit in a chair at the front door of your store with this sign that says, ‘I am a convicted shoplifter,’” Merritt said, “and they will sit there for one eight-hour day.”
In recent history, Merritt said the two or three second offenders who were prosecuted chose time in jail.
Malcom said there is no typical profile for a shoplifter and that men and women shoplift equally as often. Also, he said, approximately 25 percent of shoplifters are minors.
Most shoplifters buy and steal merchandise in the same visit, Malcom said, and it is often not a premeditated crime.
“Do not hesitate to call,” Malcom advised. “We’re here to serve you.”
Madison Tea Room and Garden owner Kathi Russell said cameras would help the prosecution of alleged shoplifters and that the viewing monitor should be located at the front desk or where a manager can easily view the screen.
Printed in the June 21, 2012 edition