'Tis the season for shoplifters

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As we head into the busiest shopping season of the year, shoplifters will also hit the stores.

The deals they're looking for are a real steal.

Ask Fayette County law enforcement about area shoplifters and it's not long before the name Mimi Phan comes up.

Court ordered to stay out of all Fayette County retail stores, Phan has a history of shoplifting arrests and convictions dating back to 1996. Her 25th mug shot was taken just last month.

She's not alone. So far in 2009, there have been more than 1,300 shoplifting incidents in the county.

Police have surveillance video of a man stealing a $300 Playstation from the Best Buy in Hamburg, smiling as he walks out the door.

They also have video of some people getting away with a laptop computer from the Walmart in Hamburg.

With the holiday season upon us, authorities are expecting even more of an increase in shoplifting.

So why should the average consumer care?

"If a company is paying for items that are stolen, they have to recover that loss." Norman Spain, a professor of loss prevention at EKU said. "And they have to cover the cost of loss prevention too."

It's also called the "shrink factor."

At the end of the year, a store compares its inventory with what it's actually sold, and their financial loss equals higher prices.

Over the past year, the city's property crimes unit has begun working closer with area stores to identify repeat offenders and help bring them to justice.

They say they're ready for the season.

To combat shoplifting this holiday season, authorities are increasing patrols at the Fayette Mall and Hamburg areas this week.

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