Small business owners battle against shoplifters in the holiday season and year-round

HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) – As the holiday season brings in plenty of customers for small businesses, it also attracts those up to no good.

We’re talking shoplifters, and for small business owners, they’re not a new concept, but a constant threat..

14 News spoke to four today. Two own boutiques, one a drugstore, and the other a liquor store.

Each of them have experienced shoplifting in one form or another, but one thing rings true for all of them, you’re not stealing from a corporation or superstore, you’re stealing from people who live in your own community.

For Angie Goodwin and Beth Melton, the owners of Landylane Boutique and the Beachbum Farms Design Company, they say a shoplifter can really be anybody.

“What we are seeing right now is the ones that are shoplifting, you can be standing right beside them, talking to them, carrying on a conversation, and somehow someway, they slide something down in their bag,” says Melton.

“I train all of my staff on what to look for, how to deal with shoplifters,” says Goodwin, “we have had middle school kids steal from us, and we literally had just donated to their cause or whatever’s going on at their school that week.”

“It’s your everyday person that you see walking up and down our community. We shake hands with them, they’re pleasant, they’re personable, and then they slide that small item right in their bag,” says Melton.

Scott Willett is the owner of Tobacco Alley of Henderson LLC, which includes Hometown Liquor & Tobacco.

He says they don’t chase people when they steal, opting instead to just call the police.

He says law enforcement are diligent and do a good job, but the penalties aren’t strict, and so he sees the same repeat offenders time and time again.

“They’re taking the same amount of bottles, and they’re not running,” explains Willett, “the last one said, ‘don’t hold it against me bro,’ and just walked out the door. He didn’t even run. He just walked out the door, turned and walked on out.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Chris Butler, the owner and Pharmacist at Butler’s Apothecary.

Butler says he’s had people on-camera stealing who will get upset when confronted, but not stop.

“I don’t care what kind of money you spend behind the counter. It’s not worth you coming in and doing that, because if you’re going to do that, you obviously don’t respect us as a business anyway, so we probably don’t need your business,” says Butler.

All of the business owners say they are a tight-knit group who keeps in contact with one another, and Henderson won’t tolerate shoplifting.

For Willett, he says if they’re going to protect their livelihoods, a change needs to come down from the legislative level.

“The police is our line of defense, and every time we’ve called, they’ve made the call. The only changes that can happen is done at a higher level above our police department. The only thing that can change is a stiffer penalty for repeat offenders,” he explains.

Willet says he’s hoping to get a group of business owners together to help change shoplifting laws and penalties to better protect them and their products.

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