By Chris Jensen and Doug Donaldson —
A major trend sweeping the country since the pandemic started is a big uptick in retail theft. Retail crime rings are targeting big-box and independent home improvement stores. Retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to combat the rise in shoplifting. Getting caught is often just a misdemeanor and there is little fear of prosecution or jail time.
For examples, thieves have to steal goods worth at least $950 for it to be deemed a felony in California. The threshold is $1,000 in New York. Roughly half the shoplifters who are caught get turned over to the police for prosecution, according to loss prevention experts.
Home Depot started testing a new method of loss prevention: power tools that don’t work unless they are activated at the checkout. Home Depot also employs security guards, known as asset protection specialists. Their job is to monitor security cameras, enforce shoplifting policies and work with local law enforcement. Home Depot employees face termination if they attempt to apprehend a shoplifter.
A 26-year-old security guard at Home Depot in Pleasanton, Calif., was just doing his job when he was shot and killed in April after confronting a woman who had allegedly stolen a phone charger.
In March, a thief used a hammer to smash the window at Duncan’s Ace Hardware in Linden, Tenn., after midnight, stealing three boxes of power tools.
This past October, an 83-year-old cashier at a Home Depot in North Carolina was assaulted after being roughly pushed to the ground by a fleeing robber. He died six weeks later from his injuries and a suspect was arrested in January and charged with murder and robbery.
These incidents are all part of a disturbing trend. According to the 2022 National Retail Security Survey from the National Retail Federation, eight in 10 retailers reported increased incidents of violence and aggression in the past year.