Expert says change in law fuels shoplifters to steal more, and more often

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Several cases of Spam were stolen Wednesday night from a Pearl City grocery store.

It happened at Safeway in Waimalu. Customer Arlene Sua was right behind the man when she says he grabbed eight cases of Spam and walked right out the door.

“That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, this isn’t real. No, he’s not going to take it, no, no. Next thing I knew once he passed the register, that’s when I heard the intercom management to the front and it was really fast,” Sua said.

She says the man got away with it.

A similar incident occurred just last week when three women tried to steal a shopping cart with 18 cases of the popular canned meat from Longs Drugs in Ewa Beach.

In that case, a shopper confronted them, so they left the Spam behind and instead ran off with other stolen items.

So why are we seeing more of this type of crime?

KHON2 spoke with a retail expert who says it’s because of a law passed last year that raised the threshold level for felony theft from $300 to $750.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says the higher threshold means thieves can steal more before facing stiffer penalties.

“They know that so they steal right under that $750 line,” she said.

Thieves aren’t just targeting canned goods. All types of merchandise are being stolen, and because of the law, thieves are stealing more of them.

Among the items being targeted by more thieves are designer clothes, electronics, and power tools.

Yamaki says thieves are not just stealing more items, they’re also getting more dangerous.

“They’re just getting a lot more brazen. A lot of times when loss prevention is trying to apprehend them, they’re being attacked. Either they’re getting punched or they’re seeing knives being used. I’ve heard of some guns a couple of times,” said Yamaki.

She adds that many stores have taken to putting targeted items behind counters and even locked up. She encourages customers to report the thefts, because in the end, we all pay the price.

“If you see somebody stealing something, let the store clerks know, because a lot of times when things are stolen, it raises up the prices, because somebody has to pay and unfortunately it’s always the customer who ends up paying,” said Yamaki.

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