Tis' The Season For Shoplifting

It seems the poor economy coupled with the holiday season is causing many more Americans to steal from stores. The National Association of Shoplifting Prevention reports that not only are numbers way up but shoplifters are getting more creative.

KLTV 7's Courtney Lane investigates to see if East Texas is following that national trend.

Tis' the season for scenes like packed stores and long lines, which distracts employees and make it easier for shoplifters to get away.

"We see a lot of thefts especially this time of year but it is a very common crime," said detective Andy Erbaugh with the Tyler Police Department.

In fact, shoplifters steal more than 35 million dollars in merchandise per day nationwide. Pawn shops are regulated by the state, undergoing strict background checks to get a license. Cathy Garton says there are obvious red flags that something coming in may be stolen.

"If an item is brought in and it's still in the wrapper, still in a box like it's brand new."

In their 30 years here, they've had to turn customers away who were suspicious.

"You can kind of just tell when they don't know how to turn it on, they don't know how to use it, that it's not theirs," said Garton.

Nationally, shoplifting numbers are up between 10 and 20 percent. The numbers in Tyler are small, only 7 more cases this season. But it does fall in that range, up nearly 11 percent. Still, Tyler police don't believe the recession is to blame.

"Our numbers, you would expect them to be a lot higher if the economy was that big of a factor in it," said Officer Doyle Lynch with the Tyler Police Department.

Police departments educate retailers on how to keep the numbers down here in East Texas. Which they need to keep up with thieves, who are now pulling tricks like lining bags with aluminum foil to avoid detection at alarms.

Security experts also say thieves are buying fake receipts online that they then use to get cash refunds for stolen merchandise.

Now, we tried to get shoplifting numbers from other East Texas cities. Only Jacksonville police got back with us, reporting only 3 more shoplifting cases this year than last year.

Courtney Lane, Reporting  clane@kltv.com