Prosecute outlet mall thieves

You wouldn’t call someone a good neighbor if they invited
criminals into your community, refused to prosecute their guests
when they commit crimes but insist on their right to waste police
time by reporting the crimes so they could file insurance claims,
would you?
You wouldn’t call someone a good neighbor if they invited criminals into your community, refused to prosecute their guests when they commit crimes but insist on their right to waste police time by reporting the crimes so they could file insurance claims, would you?

Neither would we.

Yet, that’s exactly what some stores in the Gilroy Premium Outlets are doing, according to police and the district attorney’s office. Some large outlet stores have a corporate policy of not prosecuting shoplifters – of course, that’s the polite term for thieves. The word gets around among morally challenged folks that these stores are a great place to practice the five-finger discount because there are no worries if they get caught.

Of course, the companies want to file an insurance claim to recoup losses, and they want to recover their merchandise when possible, so they contact police for a crime they don’t intend to prosecute.

These corporate cynics should be ashamed.

By refusing to prosecute shoplifters, these companies are inviting bad guys into our community. We have our own challenges, thank you. We don’t need to advertise to thieves from as far away as Oakland that Gilroy’s a friendly place to rip-off merchandise.

Who knows what other crimes someone who’s willing to steal might also be willing to commit? Grab a shopper’s purse or wallet? Not much of a stretch. Lead police on a high-speed chase, putting drivers in the entire region in danger? Certainly plausible.

Most importantly, these companies put their employees at risk – many of them young South Valley residents. The more criminals that frequent the outlets, the more potential for violence. Thankfully, there haven’t been any horrifying tragedies yet.

We applaud Deputy District Attorney Frank Carrubba’s firm approach: The DA will begin prosecuting shoplifters regardless of corporate policy. We hope the outlet stores which currently refuse to cooperate in prosecutions will see the negative ramifications of their policies and change gears.

But just in case, we have a few other ideas to prod them along:

• Institute penalties for stores who refuse to prosecute shoplifters. Hitting a store where it hurts most – in the cash register – may help compel good corporate citizenship. If homeowners can be fined for having too many false alarms on their home security systems, why not have a similar penalty for retailers?

• Issue a monthly shoplifting bulletin from the GPD listing, by store, the number of shoplifting arrests along with the number of prosecutions. Seeing the results of their misguided no-prosecution policies in black and white might shame some companies into compliance.

It’s easy to wink at shoplifting as a victimless crime. After all, who gets hurt but a faceless corporation with deep pockets? And if they don’t care enough to prosecute, why should we worry?

We worry because shoplifting is not a victimless crime. Someone pays. It’s you and me, Joe Consumer; we pay with higher prices and ever-increasing security hassles.

We pay with demoralized police officers asked to put themselves on the line to catch criminals who will likely walk away from their crimes scot-free. And we pay with the additional risk our community endures.

The district attorney’s office is to be commended for stepping up to the plate to force the issue. A meeting Wednesday between Deputy DA Carrubba and store managers appears to have gone well.

That’s encouraging. The outlets are a true asset to Gilroy in many ways. But those few stores that allow thieves to run rampant have to buy in to our community’s message: If you do the crime, you do the time.

Leave your comments