(WHTM) — Retail theft is a growing problem in the Midstate and across the country. Last week, the Ulta Beauty store in Lower Paxton Township was hit, and it has been the target of several organized theft rings over the last two years. These crimes don’t just affect businesses; they’re hurting you, too.
“For every billion dollars in sales, about $700,000 is lost to theft. That’s up 50% in the last five years, which means you and I are paying more for the goods that we buy because of this increase in theft,” said Neil Bradley with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Retail theft is on the rise, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking notice.
“We used to think about it as shoplifting. It’s not that way anymore. These are organized theft rings, and what they do is they’re organized just like any criminal syndicate with folks at the top who are placing orders for stolen goods and then recruiting often the most vulnerable in society,” Bradley said.
“We have reports across the country of stores that are forced to close because they can’t deal with the increase in violence and theft,” Bradley said.
This takes a toll on the local economy, too — fewer stores mean fewer jobs.
These theft rings aren’t just going after the usual targets like electronics and jewelry. A recent report in Pennsylvania revealed that an organized theft ring stole nearly $100,000 in power tools, Bradley said. Other items on their list include eyeglasses and laundry detergent.
Along with higher prices, customers are feeling the pain because these items are harder to find.
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“Often I find when I go into a store that’s still there, half the time I have to get the clerk to get something behind a locked cabinet because they have to keep those goods away because they’ve been the target of a lot of these theft lists of items that were targeted for stealing,” Bradley said.
One reason these thefts may be increasing is that the items are easy to sell.
“When I was growing up, when someone stole something and they wanted to get rid of it, they had to go to a pawn shop, and so the law cracked down and said if you are trying to sell something to a pawn shop, we need to know who you are, have proof of identity, so we can keep criminals from doing that. The modern-day equivalent of that is going online and selling something anonymously,” Bradley explained.
To address this issue, the Chamber of Commerce is pushing for three things. They say Congress needs to close off the ability to sell stolen goods online, states need to change their laws to crack down on theft rings, and prosecutors need to go after the criminals.