Shoplifting statistics concern police, businesses in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - According to data from the Portland Police Bureau, shoplifting is at a significant high compared to the last eight years.
FOX 12 Investigates took an in-depth look at the most current data from law enforcement, and talked to businesses in the neighborhoods where break-ins and shoplifting have been reported the most.
Data from PPB indicates the top three business districts in the city for shoplifting are the Columbia Corridor, Gateway, and Parkrose.
The most recent set of data from PPB shows that since 2020, shoplifting reports have gradually increased each year. This past year, it was the highest since 2015 with 5,014 reported shoplifting crimes from July 2022 to July 2023.
Parkrose Hardware’s flagship store is nestled in the heart of Parkrose in Northeast Portland. Store manager, Craig Loop, says since early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world into chaos, chaos found its way into his store in the form of shoplifters.
“You know, in 2020, with COVID, you know, people were just blazing,” said Loop. “They’d come in knowing and feeling that they couldn’t be touched and had almost felt empowered to just grab carts full of things and run out the door.”
Loop says the problem has become a major stress for he and other employees.
“When we need to call for, you know, police backup, those are all fears and, it weighs on you,” said Loop “I mean, I’m not going to lie that, you know, sometimes you get a multiple instances of activity a day.”
Loop says Parkrose Hardware, the owners of the building’s property, and neighboring businesses have pooled their funds to invest in armed security, reinforced glass in business windows, and extra fencing. Loop says a hot item for thieves in his store are power tools, which the store keeps locked up while on the shelves.
In the nearby business district, Columbia Corridor, another area hit hard by shoplifters, Sue Kim, owner of Airport Café, says she also has seen an increase in break-ins and vandalism in the area, including at her café, which has been in her family for decades. A local restaurant may not deal with items being stolen like retail stores, but Kim says she has to take extra precaution, like making sure no cash is kept on the premises each night.
“Well, it’s a frustration. You know, you just feel violated when you come into your space and things are missing or broken or other things like a shattered door,” said Kim. “We have to make sure that our crew and our staff is safe.”
The Cascade Station Shopping Center, just north of Kim’s café, is yet another popular target area for shoplifters. Portland police have conducted multiple retail theft operations to catch serial shoplifters in this area and across the city. One of the officers in charge of these missions is Sergeant Jorge Mendoza with PPB’s North Precinct. He also says the shoplifting problem has gotten worse since 2020, which motivated PPB to work with hard hit businesses to set up these retail theft missions.
“We try to get a lot of businesses involved,” said Mendoza. “There’s days where one business will be busier than another, and so we’ll have one point of contact that will be in touch with the loss prevention folks, maybe two, depending on the size of our mission. They will get this information and say, ‘Hey, we got a guy that’s chronically shoplifter,’ and we’ll give a time.”
Mendoza says once a mission is scheduled after a chronic shoplifter is identified, PPB officers wait outside a store in position to catch the criminal in the act.
“We’ll tactically place ourselves to be able to respond when the person walks out of the store with, you know, the items that he’s been stealing,” said Mendoza. “We try to make that as safe as possible, so they don’t get into a car. We limit liability and some of the risk to the officers and other members of the community.”
Mendoza thinks retail theft missions are having an impact and deters shoplifters from areas where missions are conducted, and sends a message. But, Mendoza says there needs to be more accountability after the thieves are caught, because in some instance officers arrest repeat offenders.
“There’s no consequence, maybe stricter prosecutors on these crimes, aggregating these crimes, different laws placed to hold these people accountable,” suggested Mendoza. “I think sometimes these thefts are committed for, you know, drug related reasons.”
Mendoza says in the last two years, he’s been a part of 15 retail theft missions, which have led to 91 arrests.
According to a spokesperson for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office,DA Mike Schmidt and his team are working on growing a retail theft task force that was created in July. The task force works with police and businesses to track down repeat offenders, and build better cases against them. Schmidt’s office also reports that charges have been issued to 80% of retail theft cases referred by law enforcement this year. Schmidt has also been vocal in his support for a new state law taking effect in 2023, which allows DA offices across the state to better prosecute thieves that commit crimes across different counties. The law will work by allowing prosecutors to issue more serious charges against thieves, by taking all incidents of theft into account regardless of the county where the crimes were committed.
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