With many out shopping for the perfect holiday gift, police are watching out for shoplifters. As YNN's Kate McGowan reports, officers are working with loss prevention employees from 'big box' stores in the collaborative effort to end retail crime.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — With the holidays fast approaching, malls and stores in the area are bustling with shoppers.
But with that comes increased theft and fraud.
"It's a crime, crime of opportunity and we take it seriously because there's an economic loss to retailers," said Town of Niagara Police Chief, Jim Suitor.
Police in both the Town of Niagara and the City of Niagara Falls are stepping up to combat retail crime. But they can't do it on their own.
Each month, they meet with security specialists from stores, like Wegmans, Walmart, and
the Fashion Outlets to talk about what issues are plaguing the stores and how they can be prevented.
"We try to collaborate together on how best to solve some of those crimes and how to deter it if possible," Chief Suitor explained.
Law enforcement tries to show pictures and video of suspects to warn stores because they said shoplifters are typically repeat offenders.
"In some cases, it can be treated as felony burglary, if the right circumstances exist to satisfy the elements of the crime. We can charge them for burglary," said Officer David Cudahy.
These monthly meetings only began last year and police said they've helped reduce crime substantially.
"We've got tremendous positive feedback from all the stores who participate, even the smaller stores," Cudahy said.
The numbers tell all. Police said in 2012, there were 145 cases of shoplifting in Niagara County, as compared to 231 cases in 2011.
Niagara's Police Chief said, "We use high-tech surveillance equipment, we use undercover police officers, undercover loss prevention specialists and you'd be surprised where we're at."
Officers want all shoppers to be aware of the harsh punishment that comes with all retail crime.
"We are offering less and less plea bargains, and we're getting more participating from victims," said Cudahy.