The Dover Police Dept. is extending an exclusive offer to shoplifters: They’ll make you famous.
Beginning the second week of August, Dover police will begin displaying shoplifting arrest information on its website and social media platforms on a weekly basis. Shoplifters who are apprehended from Aug. 8 through Aug. 14 will be in the first release, scheduled for Aug. 15.
Public Information Officer Cpl. Mark Hoffman said in a release that the primary goal of the program is to reduce the number of shoplifting cases in the state’s capital. In addition, officials want to alert merchants to repeat offenders, decrease the resale of stolen goods and reduce the amount of time officers spend on these complaints to focus their deployment in other areas and on other crimes.
The department also hopes that the campaign will help identify suspects sought in other criminal cases.
“The majority of shoplifting cases are committed by repeat offenders and the department’s goal is that by releasing the information, store employees will be better informed when monitoring their stores and inventory, and suspects will think twice before stealing merchandise in fear that their name and photo will be shared with the public,” Hoffman said.
A consistent problem
While considered by many to be an insignificant crime, Dover police officials assert that shoplifting is costly. Nationally, $13 billion in merchandise is stolen every year, amounting to more than $5 million per day.
In Dover, police have investigated 2,773 shoplifting cases since 2011, averaging 2.5 per day. 2013 witnessed 920 such incidents.
Despite these stats, Dover police referenced studies indicating that shoplifters are only caught 1 in 48 times.
“Combine those numbers with the incidents not reported to police and it’s clear that shoplifting has become a consistent problem in the City of Dover,” Hoffman said.
In addition to the impact on businesses, Hoffman suggested that a large amount of shoplifting cases can be connected to the drug trade, with shoplifters often selling and/or trading the stolen goods to purchase illegal drugs.
“By declining the number of shoplifting complaints and displaying the suspects, the department hopes that it will also have an effect on illegal drug activity in the City of Dover,” Hoffman said.
He explained that police departments using similar shoplifting arrest notifications have seen cases drop as much as 10 percent in the campaign’s first year.
Dover police will provide announcements through its website and social media outlets ahead of the first release in order to give suspects fair warning of the new program.
Anyone who is 18 and over will be posted to the website, regardless of the dollar amount, store or reasoning. Juveniles will not have their information or photos released.
As with any arrest, police officials stressed that shoplifting arrests and booking photos are public information and the defendants should be considered innocent until proved guilty in a court of law.