(Beaver Dam) The Beaver Dam Police Department say they have seen a huge increase in the number of retail theft complaints over the last several months. Lieutenant Jeremiah Johnson called the jump a (quote) “huge spike” since the end of October.
“It’s probably 10-times of what we normally see…so I would say in that normal time frame we would see six or seven retail thefts and now its spiked up to 60,” says Johnson. “And its not just at our busiest retailers we’re seeing it at our grocery stores, we’re seeing it at our gas stations.”
Johnson noted that Walmarts across the country and right here in Beaver Dam have been hit hard by retail thefts.
“People are coming in…they are simply shoplifting…some of them are bold enough not to even conceal the merchandise…that they’ll fill up a cart and they’ll just run out the front door,” Johnson says. “[Walmart is] combating this any way that they can. And they are very effective at it in the city of Beaver Dam. Walmart is doing an excellent job at catching shoplifters.
“Their response have been more aggressive with the retail theft problem. They are being very effective, at least in this city, and I would imagine across the state of Wisconsin we’re seeing the same thing as well.”
Johnson says recent changes in state law created harsher penalties for the crime.
“Across the nation, organized retail theft has been a huge concern over the last 10 years…about 10 years ago our state legislature said that…in order for retail theft to be a felony it had to be $2,500 or more…[the legislature] changed it recently to now $500 or more,” says Johnson. “Reason being is a lot of people knew where that $2,500 limit was and they were doing that to kind of skirt the law and get away with a misdemeanor. Now we’re talking some serious stuff. They wanted to put their foot down, they wanted to send a message.”
Anything under that $500 mark constitutes a misdemeanor. Johnson says they have adopted that state statute as a city ordinance so police does have the option to write a municipal citation for infractions under $500. He adds that the individual would still be under arrest and the fine would cost $313.