HONOLULU (KHON2) — From allegedly running off with boxes of cigarettes, medicine and even perfume according to police. Shoplifting is through the roof for some local retailers.
“We’re seeing some of the highest numbers we ever have had,” said Jake of City Mill’s loss prevention unit.
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City Mill said it’s an every day occurrence where thieves are getting away with shopping carts full of items.
“It’s power tools and electrical wiring. We’re starting to see a lot more camping supplies, home gods and faucets. Basically anything they can turn for a quick profit,” Jake said.
City Mill isn’t the only retailer becoming a victim.
“A guy came in and stole a bikini off the table when our employee wasn’t looking and another lady tried to steal a Turkish towel,” said Hunter Long, co-owner of Keep It Simple Honolulu.
According to federal authorities, there’s more to it than just shoplifting.
“This is for-profit activity and all of these items are funneled into organized retail crime,” said John F. Tobon, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge.
Organized retail crime is a highly complex operation ringing in $70 billion a year for the criminals, according to HSI. Thieves work in teams to get the stolen items off the shelves to online and flea markets.
“There is a rise in the amount of violence that we’re starting to see with these criminals and we’re seeing a lot of what they call smash and grabs,” said Tobon.
HSI is partnering with other federal agencies as well as local law enforcement to combat organized retail crime in Hawaii.
On Hawaii Island, police said they’re going undercover to bust thieves targeting stores. The latest sting operation happened in Hilo.
“It resulted in the arrest of five individuals last week and in one day of operation we were able to prevent the theft of over $1,600 worth of merchandise,” Christopher Fukumoto said of Hawaii Police Department.
Some retailers are also taking matters into their own hands. In an attempt to stop shoplifters, City Mill is locking away its big ticket items as well as replacing products on the shelves with cards instead.
Local retailers are grateful authorities are cracking down on the issue before it’s too late.
“If we let the losses continue like they are, it would be a huge financial burden on us. It’s also requiring us to raise prices on our items to make up for the losses we’re seeing in theft,” said Jake.
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The public can report suspicious activity, including organized retail crime, by calling the toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423.