Grove City police cracking down on retail theft


An undercover Grove City police officer sat patiently in a retail giant's parking lot as his partner tracked a suspected shoplifter inside the store. The officer's patience paid off.

CrimeTracker 10 was there when police charged a man with theft for walking out of the store with more than $100 worth off stolen fishing poles in his shopping cart. The man admitted to CrimeTracker 10 he planned to return the poles at another store.

Police said Zachary Hiles, 26, was caught on a surveillance camera when he walked out of a Grove City Kroger store with $170 worth of energy drinks.

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Police said Hiles is known to officers. A search of court records revealed police have charged Hiles with theft more than half-dozen times since 2017.

Police taking part in the sting operation said they believe the opiate epidemic is driving retail theft.

"Most of the shoplifting, I'd say 95 percent, is related to drug addiction," said an undercover Grove City Police Officer. "I mean that's what they do. They wake up, go steal, buy their dope, and get high."

Police said the stolen items are often sold online or at a fence operation, or a black market that pays cash for stolen goods. Retail theft charges in Grove City spiked in 2016 with more than 660 busts.

In part, it's a reflection of aggressive police efforts to target shoplifters. So far in 2018, Grove City police have filed more than 300 retail theft charges.

Police said it's a crime that can cost major retailers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Retail theft is a huge crime that affects all of us one dollar at a time," said Sgt. Doug Olmstead.

A Global Retail Theft Barometer report in 2010 indicated retail theft added $423 to the average American family's shopping bill.

Police said they are confident thieves will quickly learn to stay out of Grove City.

"The message we want to send is if you're coming to Grove City to commit crimes against our retailers, you will be arrested here in Grove City," said Sgt. Olmstead.