Shoplifting on the rise in Savannah - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Shoplifting on the rise in Savannah

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

It's the silent crime that is consuming the city of Savannah.

Shoplifting has nearly doubled for the first two months of 2014 over that same time period in 2013.

According to Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police reports, there have already been 227 shoplifting cases this year, compared to about 170 cases this time last year.

Just last week police said two men ran into Macy's at the Oglethorpe Mall and grabbed 35 jeans, getting away with nearly $1,700 worth of clothes.

This is just one of several recent incidents; there have also been reports of shoplifting at Victoria Secret, Ulta, Family Dollar, Walmart.

Police say these are just the cases that they have caught, the Southside and Downtown district have been hit the hardest and they've seen it done all sorts of different ways.

"They can start with distracting a sales associate and switch an item out, or they may alter a price tag or conceal it in a child's stroller," said SCMPD Cpl. John Simmons.

Police have a theory about why this is happening. They say it used to be considered a felony if you stole $100 or more worth of merchandise but lawmakers raised the threshold to $500 in 2012 and police believe the thieves have caught on.

"People are helping themselves to taking more items knowing that they are not going to commit felony," said Cpl. Simmons.

Police say they have only seen an increase in shoplifting since Georgia lawmakers changed the law.

"With the change in the law, you can take more of a product and still be treated under misdemeanor," said Cpl. Simmons.  

Police believe the thieves are taking the risk to get more merchandise even targeting corporate brand name store that have security cameras and sensors.

The downtown area is another hot spot for thieves. Stores like Copper Penny are taking a pro-active approach, hiring crime prevention officers to educate their employees on how to recognize a shoplifter and how to protect the store.

"We try to keep most of our expensive items closer to the back of the store and closer to the register," said manager Vanessa Hoffman.

Loss prevention specialists said shoplifting can trickle down to employees and even customers. Between merchandise lost and security upgrades, stores may not be able to hire new workers or give raises and some stores may even raise prices.

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