Earlier this month, the Dallas Police Department changed its policy for responding to shoplifting calls. From now on, the department would no longer routinely dispatch officers to shoplifting calls that involve merchandise valued at less than $50.
Gene Smith, president of the Loss Prevention Foundation, told SecurityDirector News that this type of policy is increasingly being seen in municipalities across the country as police departments try to maximize tightening budgets. “It is a trend,” he says. “It gets down to the economics. With tax dollars being squeezed at municipal police departments, they’re trying to prioritize their calls and a lot of people look at shoplifting and a big company and don’t think it hurts anyone because it’s a company. Well, add up those $50 shoplifting cases and we end up paying higher prices. It hurts us. It hurts the taxpayers, so it really does hurt somebody.”
Five or 10 years ago, police departments didn’t determine their response to a crime based on the dollar amount involved, Smith said. “The bottom line was: If you shoplifted something, the police were called. Period,” he said. “If it was $15, $20, it didn’t matter. Why should someone put a dollar amount on theft?”
Lt. Scott Walton from the Dallas Police Department told SDN that the policy to not dispatch an officer for shoplifting cases valued at less than $50 is not absolute. Officers would be dispatched if the shoplifter is in custody and has prior arrests on his or her record, he said. He couldn’t comment on why the policy change was made.
In Dallas, retailers who catch thieves who have stolen less than $50 worth ofmerchandise would need to verify the thief’s identification and mail a form to the police department. It would then need to release the suspect.