There are less than 12 days until Christmas and in downtown Birmingham, the holiday shopping season is in full swing.
And so is the holiday thefting season. Last week, a woman described as wearing yoga clothes walked out of Flash Accessories with a necklace she didn't pay for. Meanwhile, in late November, thieves made off with 10 Christmas trees from the Plant Station while another man was arrested for stuffing a dress down his pants at Complex Boutique.
To help Birmingham store owners and their employees combat seasonal thefts, Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt released a list of holiday safety tips for retailers.
According to Studt, the Birmingham Police Department assigns a patrol car to the downtown area every day and night. In addition, the downtown area also has two parking enforcement officers on duty each day.
"While parking enforcement is their primary role, they have been trained to be the 'eyes and ears' and are alert to suspicious activity and persons," Studt writes in his tips.
Studt also recommends that stores have at least two employees present in the store at any given time.
"There are professional thieves who work either alone or together and one store employee is no match for them," he said.
Studt also has the following tips from the Michigan Retailers Association:
- Tell employees that safety comes first: employees should never chase a shoplifter who's left the premises, or confront a suspect who may have a weapon. In these instances, call the police.
- Employees should be trained on the proper protocol when confronting a shoplifter.
- Know your legal privileges: retailers are permitted to detain a suspected shoplifter if there is probable cause to believe the person has stolen something. This applies to the merchant, the merchant's employees and an independent contractor providing security.
- If you find it necessary to detain a suspect, keep the term "reasonable" in mind. Only reasonable force may be used to detain an individual and that individual may be detained only for a reasonable period of time (usually, the time for the police to show up).
- When deciding to detain a suspect, keep in mind that retailers don't have the "absolute privilege" to detain suspected shoplifters. The suspect could bring action against the store for false imprisonment or defamation.