Shoplifting, in some cases, has become a felony in the state

Published 8:16 am Monday, February 24, 2020

Almost every week, there are shoplifting cases heard in Carter County Sessions Court. Many are repeat offenders.
Under Tennessee law, shoplifting items valued below $1,000 is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. However, that has just changed. This week the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that repeat misdemeanor shoplifters can be charged with a felony burglary.
This is good news for big retailers such as Wal-Mart, which is the target of many local shoplifters.
Everybody knows that shoplifting is stealing merchandise from a store. What many people don’t realize is how serious the consequences of a shoplifting arrest can be, especially, depending on where you are arrested.
Many stores, such as Wal-Mart, used trained loss prevention officers to aggressively prosecute shoplifting charges. Courts treat shoplifting charges very differently depending on the county the theft occurred in. Some counties in Tennessee pursue stricter penalties than others.
Although many people view shoplifting cases as minor, they consume a lot of manpower and time for store employees and local police officers, and the crimes can affect consumers by leading to price increases. And, on occasion, they have contributed to business closures.
Beating a shoplifting case has become more difficult than it used to be. Loss Prevention Officers or Security Officers are often well trained and equipped with the latest technology such security cameras, digital audio and video, wireless communication and remote zooming and adjusting of their cameras. Obviously a store like Best Buy will have the latest digital technology and the Loss Prevention Officers will focus on the items that are the most frequently targeted by offenders, as well as, their most expensive merchandise. Cell phones, digital cameras, an Ipod, an Ipad, an Iphone, and CD’s and DVD’s are among their most often stolen merchandise.
Loss Prevention Officers in stores such as Wal-Mart are trained to identify and document the most often used shoplifting strategies. These may include:
— tag switching, switching the price tags from an item of lesser value with the price tag of a similar item of a higher value;
— layering clothing, wearing loose fitting long sleeved clothing or coats into the store and carrying multiple items into the dressing room then exiting the store while wearing the new clothes under the more bulky clothing;
— removing theft detection devices from clothing while in the store or possession of shoplifting tools designed to remove these security tags;
— entering a store with bags from another retail department store, whether carrying them or placing them in a stroller or shopping cart, and then using these to disguise or otherwise hide the items intended to be stolen;
— fraudulent returns of merchandise to a department or retail store, attempting to return stolen merchandise for cash or store credit or returning empty merchandise packages.
Locally, businesses such as Wal-Mart, Food City, and Wal-Green’s (where a large number of shoplifting offenses occur) lose significant amounts of money every year to shoplifters and are committed to catching and prosecuting people who try to steal from their stores. These stores are important to our communities. They pay sales tax to the state and local government as well as property taxes to local governments. Additionally, they provide jobs.
Of course, stealing is wrong. And, shoplifters are charged with a crime, whether they do it out of desperation or to get money for drugs.
Whatever one might think about the needed severity of punishment, there is little debate that shoplifters should compensate the owner plus suffer some added penalty to deter them from doing it again.

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