by: Greg Suskin Updated:
ROCK HILL, S.C. - Shoplifting may be a common problem for retailers, but Rock Hill police noticed that it's especially troublesome at one particular Family Dollar store in town, on Saluda Street.
"Oh, I see it all the time," said Latricia Moore, a former Family Dollar employee. “They'd come in with bulky shirts on. They'd come in skinny, but when they'd leave out, they'd be all fat.”
Customer Cassandra Massey said it’s a deep problem on this side of Rock Hill.
"It's poverty," she said. "People are doing what they have to do to feed their kids and whatever. It's not right, but that's what's going on.”
Channel 9 dug up some numbers and found that since 2011, police have been called to the Saluda Street Family Dollar store 79 times for shoplifting and arrested 51 people for the crime.
However, 27 of those arrests happened in the last six weeks, since police have taken an aggressive, new approach.
Lt. Vernon Harmon said they knew they needed to step up and do something new.
"What we wanted to do was reach out to that store and see what we could do to help them," Harmon said.
Since New Year’s Day, Rock Hill's street crimes unit is now putting undercover officers inside the store, keeping patrol cars nearby, and encouraging Family Dollar to call sooner when there's a shoplifter.
"We are getting there fast enough to catch them before they leave or before they get too far away from the store,” he said.
Moore said for safety reasons, her manager told employees to let a thief leave the building before calling police, to avoid a confrontation.
Police said they have worked with Family Dollar to change that.
"We'd get there, and they'd be gone or a mile down the road in a car or on foot," Harmon said.
Several sources told Channel 9 that the company considered closing the store because of the rampant theft and other crime problems.
Family Dollar spokeswoman Bryn Winburn told Channel 9 that the company is working with Rock Hill police to monitor shoplifting at the Saluda Street store. However, she said there are no plans at this time to close the store.