Madison-Area Grocery Stores Managing Spike In Retail Theft

Stopping shoplifters is an uphill fight for area grocery stores, where crooks might think it’s less of a problem to steal low-dollar items.

While stealing items off store shelves is nothing new, industry experts said that a surprising amount of that kind of crime is actually organized.

Brandon Scholz, of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, said that cost of these thefts is a hefty burden on stores.

“It is a very expensive hit on a business,” said Scholz.

“It’s pretty constant,” said Clint Woodman, the vice president of Woodman’s grocery stores. “It definitely affects the bottom line.”

Depending on the year, shoplifting may account for almost $1 billion in retail losses statewide and additional losses in sales tax revenue. Commonly stolen grocery items include meats, cosmetics and diapers, WISC-TV reported.

To try to combat the trend, a bill now sits on Gov. Scott Walker?s desk that, if signed, would reduce the felony threshold in shoplifting crimes from $2,500 to $500.

“There’s a cost to it. Not only is there a cost to the grocer for the amount of money they lose,” said Scholz. “In addition to the money they have to invest to stop the loss, it also means you could see higher prices to regular customers. No grocer wants to do that, so they’re going to work hard to try and stop it.”

Police also said shoplifting suspects are getting more brazen and violent. They cite Rasheeda Kelley’s case as an example. According to police, Kelley was arrested Friday outside the Woodman’s on Madison’s West Side after punching a loss prevention officer in the face. Madison police said Kelley and a partner tried to rip off more than $100 of cosmetics from the store.

“People have gotten bolder,” said Woodman. “When they do get caught, they have a problem and cause a scene. That seems to be getting a little bit worse.”

Many grocery stores in the Madison area — including Woodman’s — now employ undercover security officers to watch shoppers and shelves at all times.