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The City of West St. Paul released a 2019 Operations, Activities, & Accomplishments report that covers the progress the city made in 2019. Among all the good news is one not-so-encouraging detail: Shoplifting is up 83% over 2018, with 750 total offenses.
What’s Going On?
We reached out to Police Chief Brian Sturgeon to learn more about what’s causing the issue and what’s being done (check out our interview with Chief Sturgeon to learn more about his new role).
A big part of the increase comes from more self checkout machines at Target and Walmart. It’s a greater opportunity to cheat the system, and people are taking that chance.
But there is a dramatic increase all along Robert Street, primarily at chain retailers: Menards, Walgreens, Footlocker, Famous Footwear, Goodwill, etc.
We’ve had a lot of redevelopment lately, and it’s bringing people in. More people is good for business, but it also means more crime. Sturgeon noted that 90-95% of the perpetrators are coming from outside of West St. Paul.
Increased security and prosecution are two strategies being employed in response.
Many of these retail chains have good security and that’s why more people are being caught. In fact, shoplifting numbers could go even higher if other retailers increase their security and catch even more people.
Walmart contracts with the West St. Paul Police Department for security and they’re looking to add even more hours. (It’s an overtime arrangement for our officers, so we’re not pulling them from the street to be security at Walmart.)
In terms of holding people accountable, the police department is working with prosecutors to bring more charges, especially against repeat offenders.
The good news is that the increase is not being seen in locally owned businesses and has not resulted in greater neighborhood crime (break ins, burglary, etc.).
But it will mean West St. Paul being classified as a more “violent” city, thanks to shoplifting being lumped in with more violent crimes when numbers are classified. If you see West St. Paul listed in those clickbait ‘most dangerous cities’ lists, that’s why.
West St. Paul is seeing an increase in shoplifting, but not an actual increase in violence.
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