ST MATTHEWS, Ky. — The holiday shopping season is in full swing across Louisville's most popular spots. Among those people are also shoplifters and they're not just stealing small items.
In a coordinated effort called a "retail blitz", St. Matthews P.D., 8th division LMPD, and the Kentucky retail crime association are all working together.
"The retail blitz is focused on our major shoplifting areas," St. Matthews Police Chief Barry Wilkerson said. "It makes a huge impact when all of us work together to put a dent in this."
It's the third year they're teaming up to tackle shoplifting, but this year's focus is quality, not just quantity of arrests.
"We're really focusing hard on our shoplifters that actually make this their business," Chief Wilkerson said. "Sadly it's a lot more prevalent than most people would think. There are groups that travel the nation that do this."
The effort, which takes place over three days, was very successful even in its first year, according to Wilkerson. The first year, police tackled all shoplifters, not just the repeat offenders. This year, the focus is on the bigger shoplifters.
"It'll amaze the general public how often these people are out in the same location just for the simple fact the penalties aren't that stiff anymore," Chief Wilkerson said. "We're not looking for numbers, we're looking to gain more intel and actually approach this more from a prosecution point of not just shoplifting but more organized retail crime and hopefully possibly get a better disposition in court and stronger penalties."
Terry Young, the organized retail crime manager for the Louisville division of Kroger, said the best time for the retail blitz is during peak season of holiday shopping.
"It's Christmastime, and there's more foot traffic out in the malls and out in the retailers," Young said.
Shoplifting impacts all retailers, Young said, costing lots of money.
"It's absolutely everybody involved in the retail world. It doesn't matter if you're a mom and pop or if you're a big retailer, it could affect anybody at any time," he said. "Throughout the retailers here in Louisville, there's millions of dollars lost every year to boosters and thefts."
Last year, Young said police recovered approximately $10,000 in stolen merchandise during the three-day retail blitz.
"It sets the groundwork for basically letting the boosters know 'hey we're not going to tolerate this,'" Young said. "We're going to be out there, we're proactive, and we're looking for you."
To go after the offenders, police monitor the hot spot shopping areas, like the Shelbyville Plaza and Mall St. Matthews.
"We want to make sure the crime occurs. the concealment, and if at all possible we'd like for them to get to the vehicle," Young said. "We're basically cutting out the dispatch and that part of the segment, making it a faster response for law enforcement."
The blitz took place Wednesday through Friday this year. St. Matthews P.D. did not have available numbers yet of how many arrests were made or how much merchandise was recovered.