Four big box retailers lose $7 million to theft in Monroe County in 2023
Retail theft is rampant — and chances are, it’s driving up the cost of your holiday shopping. You’ve likely noticed things seem to cost a bit more than they have in the past, and part of the reason is that stores have to make up for major losses to theft.
Four major retailers in Monroe County recently opened their books to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office — and those books show that this year alone, they lost a combined $7 million to thieves.
“Who is paying for it? We’re paying for it,” says Sheriff Todd Baxter. “You and I possibly can afford that, but what about the poor people in our community? Who is really being affected by crime this out of control? So, when someone goes out with a shopping cart, who’s paying the piper for that? The poor person, next in line.”
Last week, Sheriff Baxter says he was walking patrol on the city’s north side. “As I’m running through a parking lot for an overdose that’s occurring at the Rite Aid, I’m talking to the manager after that and she said ‘seven times today people walked in taking stuff out of my store.’ Seven times — and when that store gets boarded up, where are folks in that community going to get their prescriptions filled?” he says.
Baxter recently created a retail-theft taskforce, and one thing that was clear almost immediately was that the profit-loss statements it was being shown by retailers didn’t match up with the number of criminal complaints. Many retailers told the taskforce they don’t go through the trouble of filing police reports for a variety of reasons ranging from fear of confrontation to bad press or because they feel like nothing will come of it.
“When we talk about $7 million in losses, that’s just the four stores we’re working with,” Baxter says. “Throw in the mom and pop stores, throw in the other box stores that are in Monroe County, millions and millions of dollars are being lost that’s unreported,” Baxter says.
Many of the repeat offenders are stealing to feed an addiction, but the sheriff says even when his deputies catch up with them, all they can do is write a ticket and suggest help. “The people we gave an appearance ticket to on our retail theft detail, 50% of them didn’t come back to court,” Baxter says. “Four overdosed and one is dead … what did we do for that dead person?”
As we head into the next state legislative session, the sheriff says he plans to push lawmakers to create a repeat offender status. If someone is issued more than one appearance ticket within 30 days for the same crime, a judge would have the ability to send them to jail where they could have access to addiction treatments.