With theft on the rise, Fred Meyer's grocery store looks to police for help
Just over a year ago, a Fred Meyer loss prevention employee at the midtown Anchorage location was rushed to the hospital. It wasn't because of a medical condition, but because he had been
The loss prevention employee, who was tasked with security and keeping merchandise from being taken from the store, confronted a man, later identified by police as Steven Treadway, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving with stolen goods. In return for doing his job, the employee was transported with a two-inch laceration to his neck.
Fred Meyer management did not comment on the incident at the time, but ever since it happened, people began reporting on social media sites that they observed shoplifters leaving Fred Meyer with carts full of merchandise, setting off store security alarms. Having their employees encounter another would-be Steven Treadway had become a liability for employers.
Jeffery Temple, the director of corporate affairs with Fred Meyer, said protocol for stopping shoplifters "is an internal policy which can't be shared publicly, as we don't want people taking advantage of the policy."
Still, theft was increasing and violence was increasing, and both law enforcement and retailers were looking for something to be done about it. That's when "retail blitz" was devised.
The program, which has been utilized in the Lower 48, was brought to Anchorage as a joint effort between Anchorage stores and APD to cut down on crime and tackle the shop lifting problem.
Captain Kevin Vandegriff, with the Anchorage Police Department, said, "Retailers shared with us that the level of violence against loss prevention officers seemed to be escalating. [...] The goal was to send a strong message to the criminal elements in Anchorage that, 'If you're going to display violence when shoplifting, you're going to be held accountable by the Anchorage Police Department.'"
Officers would wait for loss prevention to contact suspected shoplifters, and then if those shoplifters ran, police would intervene and track down the suspected thieves.
Police say that people exhibiting violence becomes a risk to everyone in the store, not just the security employees that confront them. "Any time a person pulls a knife or a gun on a loss prevention officer, we're putting the lives of the public at risk as well," Vandegriff said.
Following the conclusion of the "retail blitz," which lasted about 8 hours, both APD and Fred Meyer management called the operation a success.
"APD and Fred Meyer are pleased with the outcome of this partnership. [...] ISU charged six individuals with theft, who in total attempted to steal over $1,100 worth of merchandise," APD spokesperson MJ Thim said in a release.
One of those arrests was what customers had reported witnessing on social media, a woman pushing a cart containing $551.85 worth of goods out of the store. When she failed to stop during the blitz, she was apprehended by police.
On the retailer's side, Temple said, "We can see that we are putting an end to some of this crime. It's successful."
APD said that they hope to stage similar operations with other retailers in town. No specific plans were announced.