Sticky-fingered shoppers be warned, the business owners on Main Avenue have had enough.
After noticing several incidents of chronic shoplifters appearing and reappearing in their stores, downtown businesses met Tuesday with the Durango Police Department to share their frustrations and find ways to combat the problem.
Several times, shoplifters have hopped from store to store down Main, stealing items at every store they enter, business owners said. One woman stole items at Beads & Beyond and Eurekas Clothing, then tried to resell those items down the street at Wildflower, a consignment store, said Denise Cleaves, owner of Eurekas.
Businesses decided their best defense is to create an email chain where they can internally circulate photos of suspected shoplifters.
Increased communication among businesses about what suspects look like and what they stole also is the best way to ensure police can apprehend shoplifters, said Sgt. Dave Peterson, with the Durango Police Department.
But business owners also had a few bones to pick with the police department. Meeting participants shared some not-so-great experiences with police officers when, for example, officers didnt arrest shoplifters because they didnt leave the store before they were apprehended.
If officers are coming in and not following through, it doesnt do shop owners a lot of good, said Meg Boyd, an employee at Beads & Beyond.
Though the peak season for shoplifters varies from store to store, small businesses dont have a hard time spotting suspects, said Robert Stapleton, owner of Southwest Sound. Stapleton said he gets one or two shoplifters in his store per month.
Cathy Wakeman, owner of Animas Trading Co., said she gets hit the most during the final week of school at Fort Lewis College. Its because students do their summer shopping and then leave town soon after, Wakeman said. Judging from the tags collected from stolen items, she knows she lost at least $370 in stolen goods in 2010.
In Durango, shoplifting has held steady at just more than 200 cases each year since 2009, Peterson said. But most cases actually dont happen on Main Avenue, Peterson said. Both City Markets have the most incidents by far, followed by Walmart and the Durango Mall, based on Durango Police Department data.
City Market does have more thorough security measures than most small businesses, including a loss-prevention officer, security cameras and secret shoppers, which help catch shoplifters, Peterson said. Those stores also have lots of small, easily pocketable items that makes them prime targets, he said.
Main Avenue business owners said their prices havent gone up because of shoplifting, but a level of loss-prevention is included in the price of merchandise.
Nancy Juliana, owner of Beads & Beyond, said its impossible to determine how much she has lost to theft.
Probably way more than I want to know, she said.