PELL CITY -- Police Chief Paul Irwin said his department has just about set up shop at the Walmart Supercenter due to the increase in shoplifting there.
“It has picked up since Thanksgiving,” Irwin said Thursday. “It seems like we’re out there every day.”
He said the department has seen an uptick in shoplifting from last year.
“In 2017, we processed 92 misdemeanors involving shoplifting,” Irwin said. “We have prosecuted 129 shoplifting cases so far this year. That’s up by 37 cases.”
He said those numbers only involve adults charged with misdemeanors and does not include juveniles and felony arrests.
He said defendants are charged with misdemeanor theft if the value of the merchandise stolen is valued at less than $500.
He said the Police Department has responded to 306 calls so far this year to the Walmart Supercenter. Irwin said most of the shoplifting cases occurred in the late afternoon and at night.
“I contribute most of it to drug addiction,” he said.
He said addicts will trade or sell stolen merchandise for drugs or drug money.
Irwin said greed and the excitement of stealing something are two other factors.
He said there are some sad cases where people shoplift food items such as milk, eggs and bread because they are hungry and have no money.
“For the most part, we really don’t have a lot of theft in Pell City,” Irwin said.
He said because of the location of Bankhead Crossing, easy access with more people, there’s more attempted shoplifting.
Irwin said shoplifters are prosecuted.
“If you are going to shoplift, you don’t need to come to Pell City,” Irwin said.
Irwin said every person who has been convicted of shoplifting in Pell City courts have served some jail time.
He said Bankhead Crossing is loaded with good security cameras in the various parking lots and areas around businesses and motels. The Walmart Supercenter also has excellent security.
“Their loss prevention group is doing a great job now,” Irwin said.
There are usually no incidents involving shoppers, but he said shoppers need to be aware of their surroundings. He also said they need to be vigilant.
“If they see someone shoplifting, report it,” Irwin said. “We haven’t had any thefts or robberies (of customers).
“If someone uses force to take property, they could be charged with robbery, which is definitely prison time for them (if convicted).”
He said Pell City police regularly patrol the Bankhead Crossing commercial development off U.S. 231 North.
“We’re maintaining a presence 24 hours, seven days, a week, especially during the holidays,” Irwin said.