TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Nearly 6 Million dollars---That's what shoplifters cost Pima County retailers in a single year.
Now retailers, law enforcement, and the Chamber of Commerce are teaming up and finding smarter ways to fight back.
The new push targets shoplifters who make organized rip-off runs on local retailers.
Police and retailers say surveillance usually does not show a first time thief who stole on a whim. They say these are professional shoplifters who make it a business, and work as a team.
Joe Kopelic leads security for Fry's supermarkets. He says, “They will communicate with each other and watch the store employees and then work with bags or whatever they have, sometimes nothing, they just grab it and go but they usually take the entire shelf of that commodity."
"These organized thieves know what people want so they're not really stealing expensive items like jewelry or electronics. They are stealing the essentials of everyday life---things like disposable diapers, and Tide detergent. On the streets, they’re almost as valuable as cash.
What thieves wisk off the shelves, they'll sell at swap meets or on-line for a fraction of the honest price.
But prosecutors have to prove someone's a three-time shoplifter to get a felony conviction that will keep them off the streets for more than a few days. That's why the Greater Tucson Chamber of Commerce pulled law enforcement and retail together for CART---the Coalition Against Retail Theft. The program uses the slogan: We Watch, We Prosecute. Part of the program helps retailers share consistent information to recognize a gang hitting stores all over the area.
Chamber President Mike Varney says honest shoppers have a stake in stopping almost six million in losses a year.
"Either the retailer will suffer the loss or the retailer will pass the loss on in the form of prices increases for honest consumers. Neither one of those are right."
And to make sure shoplifters already in jail get the message, the program's ad campaign will be on the tablets at Pima County Jail so criminals about to get out, know the shoplifting profession will no longer be business as usual.