In recent months, it’s rare that a week goes by without the Bensalem Township Police Department announcing a retail theft incident, whether it’s at Kohl’s, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s or another major box store.
However, this isn’t limited to Bensalem. According to the township’s director of public safety Bill McVey, rising rates of retail theft is a trend that’s been experienced throughout the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s been an increase across the country of over 30 percent nationally. And what we’re seeing here in Bensalem, this past year, we saw roughly a 10 percent increase in the incidents of retail theft. But over the last two years, we’re at about a 35 percent increase of incidents,” said McVey. “We want to put an end to that in Bensalem. Everyone wants to put an end to it, but we’re being proactive and we want to collaborate with our business partners to stop this.”
Last Wednesday morning, the township and police department, in conjunction with the Bensalem Economic Development Corporation, invited owners of local retail establishments to the Administration Building, 2400 Byberry Road, for a “Summit on Theft Reduction.”
The purpose of the summit was to educate owners on preventing, reporting and, if necessary, stopping retail theft, all of which is part of a comprehensive plan to ultimately reduce shoplifting.
“And also start a network of people so that we can work together and different stores can talk to each other, because many of these suspects commit crimes at various locations,” said McVey of the summit’s goals. “So we can help collaborate, bring our technologies and people together to stop it and drive that number down.”
On hand at the summit was Mayor Joe DiGirolamo, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and a Bensalem detective who has been tracking retail theft trends in Bensalem, and was able to provide a firsthand account of what he’s been seeing and recommendations moving forward.
McVey stressed that store owners and employees are able to anonymously report incidents to Bensalem Police. While many retail chains now prohibit workers from attempting to stop a theft, McVey wants them to feel comfortable contacting the department when a theft occurs. This way, police can obtain surveillance footage and other evidence, and work to stop the offender from stealing elsewhere.
“As a law-abiding citizen, it bothers me if I see someone go in and steal a few hundred dollars or thousands of dollars worth of merchandise and walk out, when I work for my money to pay and provide for my family,” he said. “I think that’s how most citizens feel.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com