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Holiday season brought increase in shoplifting

January 07, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Santa Claus wasn't the only one making a list and checking it twice during the holiday season. While arresting shoplifters, investigators found that the thieves carried shopping lists.

Such shoplifters, known as "boosters," take orders from people, steal the items on the list, and sell the stolen goods at a reduced price or sometimes in exchange for drugs, said Investigator Greg Alton of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

One "booster" told investigators she was making more than $1,500 a day shoplifting, Alton said.

Shoplifting is an ongoing problem year-round, but generally increases during the holidays because of the high volume of shoppers, Alton said. Store loss-prevention teams can't keep an eye on everyone, he said.

Electronics and other entertainment items are frequently targeted by thieves, said Shannon Brown, team leader of assets protection at the Hagerstown Target.

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Target uses extensive "cutting-edge security" to monitor the inside and outside of its stores. The first priority is the security of guests in the store, Brown said.

The holiday season always ushers in an increase in shoplifting activity, as well as internal theft, Brown said. "People are more needy" at that time of year, she said.

Prime Outlets at Hagerstown hires additional security during the holiday season, which begins Nov. 1, said Rachia Green, senior marketing manager.

Prime Outlet officials didn't necessarily see a correlation between the holiday season and an increase in theft, but more customers do shop at the outlets during the holidays, Green said.

"We want to be prepared to make sure guests and merchants (were) comfortable," she said.

Prime Outlets experienced only one burglary this year, which occurred during the holiday season, Green said.

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