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Many ways to thwart thieves

Eileen JoyceJudy Bailey Stitt mans the cash register at Finders Keepers in Grass Valley last Tuesday. She put a security camera in her shop after having items stolen.
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Two Grass Valley sisters, ages 14 and 11, pushed a baby stroller from store to store along Mill Street last month. They visited four stores, and the so-called baby never cried.

In fact, no one saw the baby because it was covered so well. But when the girls visited a fifth store, a shop worker lifted the covering and …

“No baby in there, honey, just merchandise,” said Judy Bailey Stitt, owner of a neighboring Mill Street business, Rambling Ruby Antiques. “There was so much stuff in there, it was just incredible.”



Police Capt. Greg Hart declined to name the business, but the loot included porcelain animals, clothing, videos, a computer mouse and other items that traced the girls’ path, he said.

This wasn’t Winona Ryder-level pilfering, but the value of the items totaled nearly $200.




For shopkeepers, the alleged thefts marked rising concerns about shoplifting, particularly as the holiday season begins to lure more shoppers.

“There’s more volume, so of course there would be more shoplifting at Christmas, and I think the pressure to give gifts sometimes adds to that,” said Sarah Miller, owner of Yuba Blue on Mill Street.

Grass police statistics don’t show a spike in holiday shoplifting. For example, last December police took 14 shoplifting reports, compared to 11 in July 2001.

In 2000, police took six December shoplifting reports, compared to nine in July.

Still, not all store owners regularly report such crimes, and some don’t report it at all, according to Grass Valley Police Detective Clint Bates.

A reluctance to be suspicious of customers is partly the problem, he said, but there is no stereotypical shoplifter. “It’s not one class of people. It’s open to everybody.”

The best theft-control practice is good customer service, Bates said.

He recalled walking through a shop for half an hour before he was greeted.

“If that’s the case, I’m definitely not being watched,” he said. “If I was a shoplifter, I’d definitely have a lot more leeway.”

Bates has given presentations to downtown merchants, and one of his recommendations is installing a surveillance camera.

Stitt had one installed at her antique shop after losing a 1920’s dress to a crook that was worth $100 .

At Yuba Blue, which routinely trains workers in theft prevention, Miller expects having extra workers aboard during the holidays will help.

Grass Valley police

recommend the following ways to deter or catch shoplifters:

? Watch every customer that walks in, and provide them good customer service.

? Use electronic devices such as surveillance cameras and anti-theft tags on merchandise.

? If shoplifters leave with merchandise, note their physical description, vehicle description and direction of

travel.


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