Shoplifting can make big impact on small businesses – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Finding merchandise missing from shelves is something any business owner doesn’t want to experience, let alone a trend of missing items, as one downtown Brainerd business owner explained her reasoning for changing hours.

“It’s the after-school crowd right now,” said Theresa Woodward, owner of CatTale’s Books and Gifts on Laurel Street. “It seems to be the 4 to 6 pm after-school crowd that’s coming through, and then we’re just noticing an unhappy amount of stuff that’s going missing in that time period.”

Theresa Woodward, owner of CatTale’s Books and Gifts in downtown Brainerd, talks about her experience with shoplifting Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.

Tim Speier/Brainerd Dispatch

With bills to pay while attempting to curb the amount of lost product during her slower months, Woodward said she will change her store hours between January and April. New hours will be 11 am to 4 pm Monday through Thursday, and 10 am to 6 pm Friday through Saturday.

“Right now we just can’t afford to lose that much and sales are so slow right now,” Woodward said. “It’s kind of an, I don’t want to say, an act of self-preservation. But it’s kind of a necessity to scale hours back when things are slower and then also to cut the hours where we’re having the most theft.”

Kris Hochmayr, owner of the Bargains on 7th thrift store in downtown, said it’s an unfortunate part of owning a business, knowing to expect theft when doing everything to run a successful business.

“I’ve been here 26 years and there’s been theft for 26 years,” Hochmayr said.

Brenda Billman-Arndt, owner of the Purple Fern Bath Co. on Laurel Street, said shoplifting isn’t generally something about which she’s concerned, but she knows it occurs.

“I don’t have a huge issue with it at my store — I mean, I’m aware it happens,” she said.

About a year and a half ago, Billman-Arndt said she received an unexpected handwritten letter in the mail from a person who stole a bracelet from her store. The letter apologized for what they had done and contained money for the item.

In 2021, the Brainerd Police Department responded to 391 reports of theft and issued 20 citations for shoplifting. As of Wednesday, Dec. 28, the department responded to 362 reports and has issued 32 this year, Brainerd Deputy Police Chief John Davis said.

In November and December 2021, 10 shoplifting citations were issued — half of all those recorded for the whole year. In 2022, six citations occurred during those months.

Calls for service are not representative of a charged crime, nor do they reflect other calls for service, which may also involve theft.

A total of 88,624 larceny incidents were reported in 2021 in Minnesota by 412 of 421 law enforcement agencies submitting National Incident-Based Reporting System data, which covers 94% of the total population. In 2020, there were 57,242 offenses reported in Minnesota by 401 law enforcement agencies.

In 2021, there were 285 larceny incidents reported by the Brainerd Police Department to the FBI. In 2020, there were 364.

The FBI defines larceny as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession of another, that is not taken by force, violence or fraud. Crime data for Minnesota is derived from National Incident-Based Reporting System reports voluntarily submitted to the FBI.

Brainerd police do not have data to back up the idea of ​​an increase in shoplifting or thefts in the downtown area, Davis said. Of the 32 citations issued in 2022, two were in the downtown area. Davis said based on how the department codes its reports, it can be difficult to discern the extent of the issue.

Notepad with writing on it.

Theresa Woodward’s notepad Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, showing all the items she found stolen after a December shoplifting incident at CatTale’s Books and Gifts in downtown Brainerd.

Tim Speier/Brainerd Dispatch

Woodward, meanwhile, said twice in the last two years, the amount of product lost to shoplifting outpaced the number of sales for the day.

“It comes and goes, but there’s definitely been an uptick in the last two years,” Woodward said. “Prior to that, we didn’t see a lot of shoplifting.”

CatTale’s reported two shoplifting thefts in 2022. The first was in May with the most recent being around the middle of December. According to Woodward, the December incident resulted in a loss of almost $170, including four $25 necklaces, three $9 essential oil rollers and two $5 mood rings.

Woodward said part of the problem a small business faces when it comes to theft is finding it, as oftentimes it isn’t noticed until weeks or even months later.

Woodward said downtown business owners message each other with trends or information to let each other know what is happening.

“I would like to implore parents to talk to their children before their friends talk to them,” Woodward said. “Have those tough conversations before our Brainerd Police Department is called. Have those conversations before it gets to that level so that they can stop their friends and they can say, ‘This is not something that’s OK. This is wrong.’”

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter


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