Surge in theft causes local stores to struggle

WATCHFUL EYES Even with registers and aisles unattended, Target utilizes cameras across the ceiling to keep track over shoppers.
WATCHFUL EYES Even with registers and aisles unattended, Target utilizes cameras across the ceiling to keep track over shoppers.

Math instructor Lauren Logan always felt safe in her condo complex.

After all, there was a gate code to enter and another gate code for where her car was parked — those gates were armed with sharp spikes that made them almost impossible to scale.

But, one early morning, when she was getting ready to drive to school, she looked at her car and knew something was wrong.

Her door was cracked open. 

When she looked in her car, she saw a mess. Every compartment in her car was cracked open and rummaged through like a raccoon does to a trash can. Luckily, the only thing missing was $9 set aside for valet tips in the glove compartment. But even though the monetary damage was small, Logan still felt extremely gross about the ordeal.

“It felt like a violation,” Logan said. “It was really creepy getting into my car, knowing someone had been in here.”

Logan had done everything right. She had locked her car and parked it in a seemingly secure location. But her car was still broken into. 

While she didn’t report the crime to the police because she believed the likelihood of catching the burglar was slim, she posted about it on Nextdoor, a social media platform where neighbors communicate with each other about what’s happening in their neighborhood. It was on Nextdoor that she learned that she wasn’t alone. What had happened to her had happened to several other people as well. 

Over the past few years, theft has risen to become a major problem in Dallas. According to a study done by the Council on Criminal Justice, Dallas experienced a 73 percent increase in retail theft through the first six months of the year.

However, some stores and supermarkets all around Dallas have resorted to adding many security measures in an attempt to lower theft. Stores have placed items like electric toothbrushes in locked cases, added security gates to store exits and increased the use of armed guards.

These measures led to a brief decrease in reported shoplifting cases in October.

But as the holiday season comes around the corner, one thing is certain — crime rates are bound to go up.

Throughout his 31-year career, campus security officer Martin Hoffer has worked at a variety of locations, but one thing he’s noticed consistently is the holiday season correlates with a rise in theft and break-ins.

“It happens every holiday season,” Hoffer said. “There is this resurgence of crime, particularly property crimes. People can take, resell or utilize items they can’t purchase themselves because of economics.”

A hallmark of the holidays is the sharp increase in shopping, as Christmas entices parents and children to buy gifts for family and friends — but the holidays attract more than just the innocent shopper.

“There are criminal shoppers as well,” Hoffer said. “They’ll walk the lot, and they’ll try doors as they’re walking and looking in cars. If there’s something in there they really want, even if the car is locked, they will break the window.” 

As the gifts pile up, so do the crimes, and navigating the increasingly perilous season may seem like a matter of luck. But to Hoffer, protecting oneself from property theft or any other situation only requires one thing: situational awareness, which means understanding the surrounding environment and being aware of the problems that may arise.

Hoffer addresses a crisis using the three D’s: Detect, Defend and Defer.

“The simplest thing you can do is lock your car,” Hoffer said. “By locking your car and securing your personal items, you are potentially defending and deferring a crime. You’re making somebody break a window or pry the door open, which they would rather not do. The suspect would rather open the car, take the stuff and leave.”

He recommends always having a plan and being prepared for worst-case scenarios.

“Stay in a well-populated, well-lit area and lock your vehicle. And anything that you wouldn’t take with you, leave at home,” Hoffer said.

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