Manteca—Shoplifters are ripping off stores in Manteca almost at will; and the numbers are staggering: Close to $1 million at two stores alone.
At the Orchard Valley Mall thieves have ripped off JC Penny big time; $700 a day in merchandise and $200,000 over the past year. "It's upsetting that times are that bad that people have to snatch and grab," shopper Abraham Palacios says he's watched the drama play out more than once. "I just seen the car waiting and somebody ran out from the store. And, then somebody from the store came out; and they jumped in the car and took off'," he says.
Best Buy, Bass Pro Shops and Kohl's. Kohl's has reportedly lost $600,000 in merchandise over the past 12 months. "We have shoplifters all the time," store clerk Jenna Treat tells FOX40 employees are told to take a hands off approach with shoplifters, "We just got audited because we are one of the top shoplifted stores in our region."
Cops say some shoplifter's make a living off this crime. We're told one man put on 5 pairs of pants and shirts, one of top of the other, and walked away. Baby Strollers have been used to nab clothing; and another ripped off the tags on a pricey set of earrings and bypassed security detectors.
In recent months an undercover Manteca police officer has been patrolling store parking lots; and a dozen people have been arrested in two shoplifting stings. Sergeant Chris Mraz says this is the brainchild of one ambitious officer "He is very much working with the loss prevention people via cell phone and they're keeping him appraised of what they've got in the stores."
In most cities, stores and shopping centers--close to highways--are the most victimized. Manteca is split by Highway 120; a major East-West connector route heavily traveled by people from the Valley and the Bay Area. That level of risk is why Abraham Palacios is sitting in his car with a sharp eye on the front door at JC Penney's, "That's why I'm waiting for my wife here to make sure when she walks out I go pick her up, so they don't lift her. Take her purse or anything!"
It's important to note: stealing isn't always shoplifting. Burglary charges can be filed if the haul is big enough. In fact, back in May one convicted shoplifter left the courthouse with an 18 month jail sentence.