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Poag & McEwens shortsightedness proves costly
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The Highway 120 Bypass is a great location for a retail business.

There is freeway access every mile with the added bonus of being midway between Stockton and Modesto. It makes it an easy 15 to 20 minute drive for over 900,000 consumers in two counties.

But what also makes it lucrative for commerce also makes it attractive for criminals.

Just two businesses last year - Kohl’s and JC Penney - racked up losses in commercial burglaries or shoplifting that reached a combined $900,000. Kohl’s had the dubious honor of leading the way with a loss of $600,000 or $1,640 a day.

Without a doubt, shoplifting is the biggest crime in Manteca in terms of dollars lost. It isn’t residential burglaries or relatively rare robberies. In 2009, the value of property loss from all crime hit $4,185,531. As bad as that sounds it was down 34.6 percent from $6,399,364 in 2008.

Manteca Police - especially compared to large jurisdictions - have an impressive recovery rate. Some 38.06 percent or $1,593,202 of stolen property was recovered in 2009 and 38.26 per cent or $2,448,644 of stolen property was recovered in 2009.

Police Chief Dave Bricker earlier this year authorized a shoplifting task force aimed at reducing the crimes. Manteca Police already had an aggressive stance against shoplifting working in conjunction with security at various stores. Shoplifting arrests - which often times get published in the pages of the Bulletin due to their brazenness or the fact they sometimes end in high speed chases - has had an impact as less Manteca-based criminals are involved. The void is being more than filled, though, by Modesto and Stockton criminals who hop in their cars and take the easy 20-minute drive north or south to Manteca.

The crime of shoplifting obviously adds to the cost of doing business. It is a cost that you and I are paying for, however, as virtually every store factors theft from shoplifters into the price they charge for goods.

Shoplifters come in all shapes, sizes, and economic classes.

This point was driven home in the 1990s when the Yosemite Avenue Save Mart was plagued by a repeat offender. They had told Manteca Police they were pretty sure who the offender was but couldn’t catch her in the act. It was an older, well-to-do, woman.

She was finally caught one day. It turned out she had been stealing weekly for over a year costing the store thousands of dollars. The perpetrator was, by the way, a regular paying customer.

Shoplifters can also be pretty innovative and sly.

One particular incident in Roseville during the 1976 holiday season made that crystal clear. Payless Drug Store had hired an off-duty Roseville Police officer to help with loss management.

The officer recognized a fairly slender woman who entered the store as a known shoplifter. She was wearing a long coat. He followed her discreetly through the store only losing sight of her a couple of times. Then he saw her slip some lipstick into a pocket. All he had to do was wait for her to leave the store.

When she did, he immediately identified himself and the woman took off running. Her running didn’t startled the officer. What did was the 10-inch screen TV that slipped from beneath her coat and bounced on the parking lot pavement.

He did not see her steal the TV and noted he had only lost sight of her for less than 30 seconds at a time.

The shoplifters who cause the most problems in Manteca are living their lives outside of the law.

That is why Poag & McEwen - the developers of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley - were shortsighted when they rejected a recommendation from the Manteca Police to place mounted license plate scanners at all entrances to the shopping center. All license plates are scanned instantaneously with a state-maintained data base of stolen vehicles. Police are alerted when a stolen car passes and are provided instantly with all pertinent details. Poag & McEwen contended it was too costly although Manteca Police astutely pointed out that most people who drive stolen vehicles are criminals who have a tendency to steal for a living which means they shoplift.

Perhaps the police may want to approach Craig Realty that is piecing together the outlet stores in the same complex as well as JC Penney, Best Buy, and Bass Pro Shops to see whether they’d like to help foot the bill for the scanners.

It seems like a cost effective way of reducing shoplifting losses and probably would pay for all of the scanners in less than a year.