Metro-East News

Grab-and-run shoplifting on the rise in Fairview Heights

Grab-and-run shoplifting cases are on the rise in Fairview Heights, and police are adding new patrols to try to curb the trend, Officer Tim Mueller said.

Out of 55 grab-and-run cases this year — where shoplifters swoop everything they can up into their arms and take off running — 61 percent have occurred in the last four months. In 13 of those cases, more than $1,000 worth of merchandise was stolen, according to police data. For just under half of the cases, more than $100 but less than $1,000 of merchandise was taken.

No arrests have been made in about 85 percent of the grab-and-run cases, as police don’t pursue for property crimes. To make things even harder, many of the shoplifter’s cars have either no plates, Missouri plates or are stolen, and they flee the state soon after the crime, since Fairview Heights shopping areas are so close to the highway.

During 2016, Fairview Heights Police investigated 44 reports of grab-and-run cases. Similarly, most of those did not end in an arrest.

Police have started doing more plainclothes work at St. Clair Square Mall, Mueller said. On the first night of undercover patrols, police caught two women doing a grab and run.

Although grab and runs have increased, thefts from people are still what worry police most, Mueller said.

“A theft from a store isn’t nearly as bad as a theft from a person,” he said. “You have that physical contact then ... so we’re concentrating on patrols in parking lots.”

Malls and other shopping areas will be much more crowded as shoppers rush to find the perfect gifts for their family and friends. Mueller offered the following tips to be safe, especially when shopping alone at night.

▪ Walk with your purse/bags close to you

▪ Don’t carry cash — use your cards instead

▪ Have your keys ready when walking in the parking lot

▪ Ask for an escort from mall security or police

▪ Report anyone who seems suspicious

▪ Walk with your head up to see what’s going on

▪ Park in well-lit areas next to smaller vehicles