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Stores join forces on theft

BROOKSVILLE — Over and over, Keith Guyton would watch foiled shoplifters leave his Beall's department store and head to another shop in the same shopping plaza. And he was unable to do much about it.

"I had no way of contacting," the other stores, said Guyton, loss prevention group manager for Beall's in Pasco and Hernando. "We had nothing in place."

Guyton contacted several groups elsewhere that link retailers and law enforcement officials to find out how they operate. He then reached out to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

That led to the formation of Sheriff's Helping Retailers through Intelligence Networking and Crime Prevention (SHRINC), which met for the first time Monday, just as the busy holiday shopping season, and the attendant spike in shoplifting, gets into gear.

The meeting featured a presentation by Seminole County Sheriff's Office Investigator Christopher Ortiz, one of the co-founders of the Florida Retail Crime Enforcement Group (FORCE).

Ortiz showed FORCE's online trove of information, where members can share crime trends, distraction methods used by shoplifters and the identities of people who have been seen casing stores.

He also showed a surveillance video of a man who ransacked a closed Target store in Daytona Beach earlier this year. The man, who was suspected in several other burglaries in the area, tried to leave the store with a sackful of items only to be confronted at gunpoint by a deputy.

"We need to get this information out there,'' Ortiz said. "In the past, retailers really haven't shared much with each other."

David Gloetzner, a loss prevention manager at Kohl's on Spring Hill Drive, and Christopher Riddock, an assets protection leader at the nearby Target, said they were eager to get involved with the network. Over the past few months, Gloetzner and Riddock had already begun sharing information about crime trends at their respective stores.

"We can watch (shoplifters) go from our parking lot to theirs across the street," Riddock said. "That's the sort of thing we're trying to stop."

"We look at all the tools the criminal element has,'' Guyton said. "Well, we've got to have our own tools.''

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Stores join forces on theft 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2009 9:17pm]
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