BY KEN LITTLE
Shoplifters from Greene County are appearing in growing numbers in Washington County, according to the loss prevention manager at the Sears store in The Mall at Johnson City.
Ben Stratton, loss prevention manager at the major retailer, said Thursday that 11 of 18 alleged shoplifters caught this month taking merchandise from Sears are from Greene County, including one charged this week with a misdemeanor count of shoplifting.
Guy Broyles, 38, of 460 Bernard Road, was charged on Wednesday, Johnson City police said.
"We have had a huge amount of Greeneville folks who have come here to try and steal in the store," Stratton said Thursday.
Broyles allegedly attempted to leave Sears with about $350 worth of Craftsman tools from the store by concealing them in his pants, undershirt and coat.
"Our cameras picked up Mr. Broyles acting very suspicious, acting nervous," Stratton said. "When you're looking at tools and not paying attention to the price, you're fixing to steal."
Broyles was issued a summons and is scheduled to appear March 25 on the charge in Washington County General Sessions Court, Johnson City police said.
"They will catch you up here the same as they would do in Walmart [in Greeneville]," Stratton said. "Even though you're from out of town, we will still find out about you."
GAS PRICE MAY BE FACTOR
Some individuals who shoplift merchandise from area businesses sell it at pawn shops operating outside the law and use the money to obtain drugs, he said.
Stratton, who is also a Washington County auxiliary sheriff's deputy, said one factor contributing to increased shoplifting in the area is the rapidly rising price of gasoline.
time gas prices go up you're going to have shoplifting go up," he said. "You can't get your drugs
Stratton said some methamphetamine abusers like to drive on lightly-traveled rural roads, away from law enforcement, when they are preparing meth using the "one-pot" method that can be done in a quart-size soft drink bottle.
"When the price of gas goes up, it's hard for [meth-abusers] to make those makeshift labs because [the cost of driving] is so high," he said.
Stratton said the recent trend of shoplifters from Greene County is indicative of a wider problem. Because Johnson City is a regional retail center, shoplifters from other counties surrounding Washington County are often apprehended, he said.
It's a constant challenge for loss prevention specialists such as Stratton.
Organized retail crime groups can strike an area, often stealing $1,800 to $2,500 from a business per person before moving on to another city.
"They are harder to catch," Stratton said. "You've got to be very good and very lucky to make an arrest. At the same time, what's easier to catch is these locals who are pilled up on drugs."
Arrests this year at all businesses in Johnson City don't indicate an epidemic of shoplifters from Greene County, Johnson City police Sgt. John Hames said.
"Looks like several from Greeneville, but not an extravagant amount," said Hames, who oversees crime statistics for the Johnson City Police Department.
LOSSES IN MILLIONS
According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), shoplifting has become one of the most prevalent crimes in the U.S., averaging about 550,000 incidents per day and resulting in more than $13 billion worth of goods stolen from retailers each year.
"That is more than $35 million in losses per day. Current estimates are as high as one in 11 Americans who shoplift in our nation today," according to information on the website, http://www.shopliftingprevention.org
"Even with all the advances in security measures, shoplifters are only caught once in 49 times they steal, and when caught, turned over to the police only 50 percent of the time.
"This is due, in part, to the fact that there is a trend away from shoplifter apprehension and prosecution by retailers, law enforcement and the courts as a way to cope with increasing costs, time issues and legal liability," the NASP website claims.
Reported shoplifting offenses are currently on the rise, according to the FBI Crime Index.