TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — Imagine checking out at a store, only to discover you accidentally missed an item. It's an easy mistake to make, but for several people KGUN 9 spoke with, their mistake cost them a ticket and a hit on their record.
"Out of the shadows, two women just jumped out at me and grabbed the cart and ushered me all the way back across the store, into a tiny little interrogation room, if you will, and told me I was being arrested for shoplifting," She said. "And I was just in complete and total shock because I had absolutely no knowledge, let alone the intention of not paying for my items."
A woman, who does not want to be identified, says she was given a petty theft citation at the Walmart off La Cholla at 7635 N. La Cholla Blvd. B in Tucson. She says she accidentally forgot to scan a few items during check out.
"They proceeded to hold me there. For about an hour and a half. They called the sheriff. They said because it was over $30 they would have to arrest me. I've never been arrested in my life. I'm in my 60s and they were just very rude and inconsiderate and I kept asking them to explain things because I didn't understand what was going on," She said. "The sheriff came, he read me my rights. I had to sign some things, then he offered to stay and chat with me afterward because he could tell I was so upset."
She's not alone, KGUN 9 spoke with three other people who were too afraid to go on camera with similar stories.
The trend was noticed by Sandra Barger, who is a counselor and provides court ordered treatment. Barger noticed several people going through the court diversion program who weren't her typical petty theft clients.
"Well, what I've noticed is I'm getting a lot of clients that have to do the adult responsibility course for petty theft," Barger said. " And it's coming out of one particular place ... which is the Walmart on La Cholla."
She says in March she had 14 clients who were cited for petty theft from the Walmart on La Cholla. Some of the items they were caught for ranged from kitty litter to a bottle of bleach.
"It's the same story. You know, I'm standing there scanning, I have my children with me. I have one client that had his kids with them," Barger said. "And it was just the simple one item that he missed, which can happen you know, anyone can do that. I have another client that is a business owner that purchased over $2,000 in items and one item is what he missed and he got cited for that."
According to Pima County Sheriff Deputies there were 62 cite and releases at the Walmart on La Cholla from January 2021 to April 11, 2022.
Meanwhile the Walmart in Oro Valley off Oracle had only 3 shoplifting arrests, which were felony arrests related to retail theft.
Across town in Marana at the Walmart off Cortaro and I-10 there were around 84 cite and release arrests for 2021 and 2022.
"I think there should be an opportunity before they leave the store to rectify the situation," Barger said. "Now there are circumstances where yes, people are doing these things. But I do think there needs to be a little more regulation on the situation."
KGUN 9 reached out to Walmart for their policy on thefts. They provided the following statement.
"Like all retailers, we take basic measures to control inventory and keep prices low. For obvious security reasons, we don't discuss specific store policies. When necessary, we reach out to law enforcement as part of our commitment to meet our customers' and associates' expectations of a safe and enjoyable shopping experience."
The next time you plan on using the self check out, make sure each item appears on your screen and don't be afraid to ask for help from a cashier if you are having trouble with an item.
Denelle Veselik is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. It's been her dream to tell your stories for the past decade. She is extremely curious and wants to continue to use her storytelling for the greater good. Share your story ideas and important issues with Denelle by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, and Twitter.