How retail theft is having an impact in Lexington

This nationwide $100 billion problem impacts everything from prices to whether or not a store or shopping center stays open.
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 5:56 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The National Retail Federation says organized retail crime is hitting some of your favorite stores.

The federation says there has been a 26% increase in these types of thefts in recent years.

This nationwide $100 billion problem impacts everything from prices to whether or not a store or shopping center stays open.

“You’re seeing retailers leave urban areas where there’s been a lot of shoplifting,” said Ky. Retail Federation Communications Director Steve McClain.

McClain says there’s an increased trend where groups of people are coming into stores doing smash and grabs and making a run for it.

McClain says thieves are looking for baby formula, razor blades, luxury items and anything in between.

McClain says the crooks flip what they steal on social media.

“They have found an easy way to resale it online marketplaces those are not, have not been tracked,” said McClain.

“If people’s going to shoplift wherever they shoplift, they should get a job there, and eventually you’ll get caught,” said former retail store worker Debra Lohr.

Lohr worked in retail for 20 years. At one point in her career, she stopped a shoplifter from escaping.

“Well, when I saw someone take something, I contacted my store manager and she followed them around the store and caught them and took them in the back, and they were arrested,” said Lohr.

“There was a time where we had a person who roamed to the back of our store, grabbed some product, and literally ran out of our back door that wasn’t locked,” said Kentucky Branded President Joe Kawaja.

Kawaja says when the thief left, there was a get-a-way car at that back door.

This store is located in the Hamburg Pavillion.

One loss prevention officer in the Hamburg Pavillion says the shopping district is a target for organized theft partly due to its proximity to the interstate. He says every day he works, he’ll stop at least one shopper from stealing and there are those shoplifters working in groups who know how to dislodge the magnetic alarms on the clothing.

These types of crimes can happen anywhere at any time, but it is too frequent for Kawaja.

“My guess is we are probably getting hit every week, maybe every day, but we are trying to watch,” said Kawaja.

Lohr believes if this trend doesn’t stop, stores will take the next step.

“If we keep on, the stores are going to close, and no one is going to be able to shop,” said Lohr.

We contacted the owners of the Hamburg pavilion for comment and haven’t heard back.

Kawaja says he’s added more staff and security measures.

Major Josh Hale of Richmond Police says in 2021. They had 109 shoplifting cases. That number jumped in 2022 to 259, but he can’t say if those numbers necessarily reflect organized retail crime.