As the holiday shopping season continues, an increased police presence to discourage shoplifting will be evident inside and out of stores at The Highlands.
Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler said merchants have hired deputies to patrol parking lots and walk the stores.
"They are required to walk inside the stores at least one time during their shift," he said.
Photo by Fred Connors
Patrolling parking lots and stores at The Highlands, Ohio County Deputy Allan Spencer is one of several extra deputies on duty to protect shoppers and to watch for shoplifting activities.
In addition to the deputies, Butler said each merchant will have their own loss prevention employees patrolling in plain clothes.
Also, most stores have surveillance video, Butler said.
"Stores have excellent security systems and cameras," Butler said. "It is very hard to shoplift up there and not get caught. Shoplifters are running a higher risk than normal of not getting caught."
Butler said his department has established a booking station in the rear of one of the buildings.
"We will do fingerprinting and take photo and do a criminal background check on site," he said. "First offenders will be ticketed and released with a court date. Second or third offenders will be jailed and taken before a magistrate forthwith."
Butler said the processing center has seen a lot of activity already during this year's shopping center.
"One day last week we had five people waiting to be processed at one time," he said, adding shoplifters can expect to pay court costs and an amount equal to double the cost of the merchandise stolen.
Butler said business owners and shoppers feel more secure knowing law enforcement officers are nearby.
"Shoppers should use caution when walking to their cars," Butler said. "They should park in well lit areas and, above all, lock packages in the trunk area with nothing visible on the seats. This may prevent smash and grab thefts.
Butler said potential shoplifters should reconsider stealing merchandise.
"Anytime someone shoplifts, they are guaranteed a free ride," he said. "They also will have a misdemeanor theft on their record. Future employees who see that may not be inclined to hire someone with a theft record."