Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

It was back in my MCC college days when it began. For some term paper, I began hunting shoplifters at a store I was working in Brighton. I can’t remember what I got for a grade on the paper, but I was so successful at hunting for shoplifters, that I was soon hired as store security. One job led to another, and when I transferred to Syracuse University for Journalism, I discovered I could offset tuition and living costs by continuing in store security.
The jobs became more lucrative and I was able to escape most (not all) student loans by working my tail off hunting thieves. I was the scourge of shoplifters in all of the stores where I worked, and became well-known by area police agencies.
After graduation, I loved the ‘hunt’ so much I continued in the trade, at least part-time, for almost the next 30 years. Over the years, I garnered about 3,000 arrests, everyone from politicians and policemen to judges and professional sports figures. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor, they all got the evil-eye of the master store security guy.
Along the way I had some exciting chases, fights, hospitalizations and drama. Except for maybe two or three occasions, every captured shoplifter exclaimed: “It is the first time I have ever done this”. I had a 100% arrest policy and managed through thousands of tears, threats and even a few urinations upon catching a thief, to keep my record of arrests going.
Then, things began to change. I was getting way too busy in my real newspaper job to put in the hours requested. I was also getting too old to chase down ‘runners’ and ‘fighters’.
Another change happened. During one arrest the fists started flying and his, not my blood was shed. Only later did I discover the guy was something called “HIV positive.”
Oh, perhaps the biggest change evolved over a very short period of time. The store security guy/girl became the bad guy in the eyes of liberals. Yearly excessive and stupid license regulations started showing up. In the end, I was required by state law, to take the exact same eight hour license renewal class and pay the exact same fee to take the exact same test every year for my license. Soon, lawyers saw more money to be had in suing stores for myriad reasons. “My client stubbed his toe while being pursued by your security guard.” “My client felt embarrassed and humiliated by his arrest in front of everyone over such a menial arrest.”
Stores began pulling back from allowing good, trained security people to make apprehensions. Getting a license plate, description, etc. is all the security guard is often allowed to do. The major stores became weary of allowing store guards to make stops.
There were shoplifting rings back in my days, but the situation has become much more risky. Shoplifters with blood diseases, hyped up on drugs, willing to carry and use weapons and gangs stealing big ticket items are all the craze.
It is not unusual to see a shoplifter stealing thousands of dollars in a single trip. Why? Because chances are they will get away with it, at least for the short haul, at least for the next drug fix.