In the last 6 months, JC Penney at Somerset Mall has seen a similar scenario played out time and time again.
“I’m starting to see people pile things up on their arms, more than normal,” says manager Ray Stennett.
Shoplifters aren't stealing stuff because they need clothes. Stennet says they're looking for cash.
“Anything they can sell. Anything that's got street value,” he says.
Somerset Police say the problem is citywide.
“We've been seeing an increase of over 20 a month ever since last July,” said Lt. Allan Coomer.
Police and retailers blame the economy in part for the increase. People don't have as money. Gasoline is high, and stores maybe don't have as many employees to keep an eye on merchandise.
Somerset police say some shoplifters are going “semi-pro,” targeting multiple stores at once, as evidenced by a bust just this week.
“We recovered property from about 6 different stores. They had a very busy day. Most of them were felony thefts. Found over $300 in merchandise,” said Lt. Coomer.
But retailers have a message for the crooks.
“You know people think they can get away with it. But they always get caught. We're watching every nook and cranny,” said Stennett.