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Retail stores lock up more items behind displays as shoplifting returns to pre-pandemic levels

2023-03-14

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You may have noticed more items locked up behind glass when you go to the store, as stores place more and more household items under lock and key to prevent shoplifters from making profits off of stolen merchandise.

Items like over-the-counter medications, cosmetics, laundry detergent and even underwear are put behind display cases to prevent thieves from walking away with the goods.

But the new retail trend, and added inconvenience, has not gone unnoticed. Customers hoping to buy something behind the glass must wait for an employee to get it for them, and in some cases the item gets walked over to the cashier to ensure its purchase.

"They make you press the button and wait for somebody to come," said Gloria Cortez of Glendale. "It takes forever. It takes forever."

Retail stores point to LAPD data that shows shoplifting has increased from 558 thefts from stores on average per month in 2020 and 540 in 2021, to 882 so far in 2023. But the number of thefts in recent years is skewed because of the pandemic.

Thefts and robberies at retail stores are 2% higher this year so far compared to the monthly average for L.A. between 2016 and 2019.

Bruce Thomas, a law enforcement expert, said the trend to put retail items locked behind a glass display case started before the pandemic.

"It started a couple of years ago during the pandemic, even just prior to that," said Thomas. "What we saw were people going into these retail establishments and seeing them steal in large amounts."

"What they do is they sell it in a third-party venue and so it's an organized crime," Thomas continued. "They are stealing these items."

Even with the added security to prevent shoplifters, the display cases come at a cost of their own.

"It takes your time," said Cortez. "Especially when you need to go to work or after work when you have to go home and cook."

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