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Businesses have ways to protect themselves against shoplifters

Although there’s no fool-proof defense against theft, there are several things retailers can do to prevent shoplifting.

Though state law allows merchants to detain shoplifters until police arrive, Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh said it can be dangerous to do so.

“I recommend that shopkeepers never try to detain anyone,” Haigh said. “It can put you into a situation you don’t want, where the confrontation becomes physical.”

Haigh suggests that merchants instead focus on getting the best description of the suspect they can, and try to see if the thief gets into a vehicle and take note of which way it leaves.

Video surveillance can also help, he said, but police have to be able to access it quickly.

“A lot of stores have an out-of-town or out-of-state video surveillance company,” said Haigh, meaning it can take a lot longer to get copies to police.

“Other times, the camera systems aren’t clear enough,” he said. “If you can’t make out the pictures, it might as well be a fake camera.”

Low-resolution, grainy, or out-of-focus footage can make it difficult to identify suspects caught on tape. The chief also advised that store owners make sure their cameras don’t leave “blind spots,” which thieves can duck into to conceal items.

Scott McGregor, franchise owner of the Adam and Eve Store in Greenfield, said shoplifting was a big problem for him when he first opened. He said he’s been able to curb theft with a zero-tolerance policy and state-of-the-art video system.

He installed 16 high-resolution color cameras to cover his entire retail area from several angles, and said police have been able to identify and charge several thieves based on the footage they collect.

Kristie Faufaw, owner of Ryan and Casey Liquors in Greenfield, trains her employees to look out for suspicious behavior and confront those who look like they are up to no good.

Like McGregor, Faufaw believes no theft is too small to call police. Both said that building a reputation for being tough on thieves can go a long way toward keeping merchandise from walking out the door.


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Stealing has been against the law since before “thou shalt not steal” was etched onto the tablets that carried the Ten Commandments. While the Babylonian law text known as the Code of Hammurabi, circa 1772 BC, punished thieves through 30-fold payback, the severing of digits or even death, Massachusetts’ shoplifting penalties are a little lighter. They range from fines to … 0

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