News & Publications

Chico Retail Watch Program Begets Positive Signs, Police Say

By Andre Byik | abyik@chicoer.com | Chico Enterprise-Record
PUBLISHED: August 7, 2018 at 5:42 pm | UPDATED: August 8, 2018 at 11:24 am
CHICO — Following the launch this year of a watch program whose aim is helping retailers curb shoplifting, the Chico Police Department has seen signs that the effort has brought about positive results.

Since the creation of the Chico Retail Watch program, which was launched in February by the Police Department, Chico Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Chico Business Association, police have been collecting data regarding shoplifting reports, police responses and arrests, among other statistics.

Chico Police Chief Mike O’Brien said Tuesday that, when comparing the first six months of 2018 with 2017, the Police Department has seen an 8 percent increase in shoplifting calls for service, a 200 percent increase in police responding to shoplifting calls and a 23 percent increase in shoplifting arrests.

O’Brien described the increase in shoplifting calls as a modest but positive development.

Retailers may now be more inclined to report cases of shoplifting to the police since the creation of the program, which, according to the Chico Chamber, comprises monthly meetings between businesses, law enforcement and loss prevention officers to discuss ways to prevent retail theft.

The police chief said the program was started as a way to address a crime problem that has cost local retailers millions of dollars in revenue. The question, he said, was, What can be done about the city’s retail theft crisis?

“We’re really talking about millions of dollars in lost revenue,” O’Brien said. “We’re talking about the feeding of addictions. We’re talking about people not getting the assistance they need to get off whatever they are addicted to. And that was an issue we wanted to address.”

The police chief said when officers detain suspected shoplifters, they often discover additional crimes related to the incident, including outstanding warrants, drug possession, weapons violations and stolen vehicles.

The Police Department, O’Brien said, asked business owners to do two things — report incidents of shoplifting and be willing to follow the cases through to prosecution.

So far, retailers appear to have taken the advice to heart.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said his office, when comparing the months of May-July 2018 with the same period in 2017, has seen a 57 percent increase in shoplifting-related cases flow through his office for prosecution. And he expected the cooperation between retailers and law enforcement to continue as the retail watch program grows.

Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber, said local businesses can participate in the Chico Retail Watch program by calling the Chamber or DCBA and attending monthly meetings. Retailers are asked to call 891-5556 for information about meetings times and locations.

Businesses are also encouraged to join the Chico Retail Watch group on Facebook.

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