Retailers in Missouri lose an estimated $1.44 billion in annual revenue to theft. It’s an ongoing problem that Dave Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association, said prosecutors and judges need to hand down stiffer penalties.

“When there’s no consequences, then you’re going to have more of this type of activity,” Overfelt said. “The thieves know not much is going to be done under a misdemeanor. They have to be convicted a couple of times before they can possibly get a felony on the third time. They know what they’re doing.”

It’s not just big box stores – Overfelt said that if thieves spot an opportunity for a five-finger discount, they’ll take it, regardless of what it is and where it’s at.

The question becomes – why aren’t stores stopping the thieves? There’s a reason for that, and it’s leaving retailers stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Overfelt said employees are instructed not to intervene.

“It’s really because of the liability of if the employee gets injured or another customer gets injured,” he said. “That could outweigh the value of the theft.”

Overfelt said in 2021, Missouri lost out on nearly $70 million in retail sales tax dollars due to theft. The Missouri Retailers Association said the state’s retail theft per capita is 11.7% higher than the national average.

“The boosters will go to any venue they think that they have a good shot of getting in there and getting out,” said Overfelt. “They, over time and experience, get a feel for the time to go in – typically when a store is overcrowded, busy times.”

The most stolen items being denim, apparel, electronics, medication, meat, and detergent.

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