Police team up with businesses to prevent holiday of crime

by: JOSH KULLA - Carol Winston of Accessories From the Heart knows she has a friend in Lake Oswego Police Lt. Doug Treat. Merchant vigilance and the police make the city a bad place for shoplifters during the holiday season.Downtown business owners in Lake Oswego love to have Christmas shoppers walk into their shops — except for the ones who have no intention of paying for their gifts.

Carol Winston’s business, Accessories From the Heart, is located right in the heart of this city at A Avenue and Second Street, and it is quite easy to find. It also carries many items, like jewelry, that shoplifters find irresistible. That means Winston and her employees have to be on the alert for “families” doing their Christmas shoplifting.

“We had this family from out of town come in recently,” Winston said. “There were two women and four children and what they did was well executed. The kids were well educated in shoplifting. They tried their best to distract my staff, but they were on to them quick. Those guys didn’t get anything.”

Winston herself was not on the scene during the attempted heist by the six thieves because she was at the bank. Otherwise things would have gone much worse for them. Still, it was a prime example of why downtown merchants must be wary during the holiday season.

by: JOSH KULLA - Here are some items that make it a merry Christmas for shoplifters. But downtown businesses are working hard to stop the thievery.“I want to warn my friends about this,” Winston said. “Fortunately, we have better communications between businesses than there are in other towns, and we’re gaining momentum. At a recent meeting of the Lake Oswego Business Alliance we had 45 people present. We keep getting to know our neighbors better. Only by doing that can we avoid problems like this.”

The Lake Oswego Police Department is the key to making this city unattractive to shoplifters, and Winston is their biggest booster.

“We have a police department where no call is too small,” Winston said. “Our police are so accessible and we benefit from that. ... The next time a business owner gets nervous, they should call the police. They can be any place in this town in three minutes. Hopefully, that will get the message out to anyone who wants to rip us off.”

Lake Oswego police have gone to extraordinary effort to make connections with Lake Oswego businesses. In the last year the department has made 2,000 patrols and contacted 750 businesses.

“I don’t know of any other police department that goes to the extent that we do,” LOPD Lt. Doug Treat said.

“Our police officers are walking the street in December,” Winston said, “and they never used to do that before.”

But Treat needs some help from business owners.

“I don’t know how many times something occurs and nobody calls us,” he said. “We’re asking business owners to not sit on it for two days or a week. Please call us.”

Treat recently teamed up with Sgt. James Peterson for a seminar for merchants on how to prevent many kinds of holiday thievery, including fraudulent checks and fraudulent gift cards.

Occasionally the crooks win. At least temporarily. Winston cited an incident in November when a professional shoplifter came into her shop and stole 32 pieces of jewelry.

“In two hours 15 pieces were on his site on eBay,” Winston said.

However, the thief will not get to profit from his ill-gotten gains.

“He was caught and his trial is coming up,” Winston said. “He’s a multiple offender. At some point he’ll have to pay.”

Ultimately, the lesson for thieves is: “Go somewhere else besides Lake Oswego.” Especially during the holiday season.

Contract Publishing

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