Police in Mentor are trying to stop shoplifting before it happens

MENTOR, OH (WOIO) - Mentor police say that, according to the statistics, their shoplifting surveillance program is working, and fewer drug abusers have been arrested shoplifting.

Three years ago, officers in the Mentor Police Department noticed a correlation between drug use and "theft rings." The department received a grant from the state to start the Retail Crime Theft Deterrence program. Officers who participate in the program keep an eye on retail stores in the city of Mentor looking for suspicious behavior, and for known drug abusers who have a history of shoplifting or other crimes.

The program, now in its third year, points to statistics showing a decline of admitted drug users arrested for shoplifting.

In 2015, police said 62 percent of those arrested for shoplifting were admitted drug addicts. That number went up to 72 percent in 2016, but so far this year, 37 percent of those arrested for shoplifting admit having problems with drugs.

According to information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of women arrested for theft, and nearly two thirds of men, test positive for illicit drugs when they are arrested.

Mentor police Officer Jim Collier said retailers appreciate the program.

"The stores are part of the community, they want to see us involved, they want to be involved in the community, and we're helping them with this type of program," said Collier. "We're looking for the individuals that are coming into the community that are stealing from our retailers, and they're stealing for the reason of their drug addiction."

He said shoplifting is such a focus because shoplifting can kill a community.

"It can drive out a lot of stores," he said. "It can close stores."

And though Collier said the program is trending in a positive direction, he said he's realistic.

"Are we ever going to stop shoplifting? No. It's a crime and it's gonna occur just like a lot of other crimes occur, but one of our goals was to try to prevent those certain individuals from coming in and stealing from our stores," said Collier.

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