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Retail Crime in Appleton

When Appleton Concerned Taxpayers (ACT) expressed concerns at Appleton budget time for police staffing, an alderperson blogged: “One area of concern was the failure to increase the number of police officers, including a new rendition of what I am thinking is an urban legend as I’ve also seen it a few times on social media-the rampant shoplifting at a CVS pharmacy and a policy of failing to take action against it. We have no confirmation from APD that this is valid.”

ACT members proceeded to gather information from Walgreens (3), CVS, Home Depot, Walmart and Target. All sites indicated off the record at least $2,000 in theft weekly per store is occurring, with high theft items often secured or moved behind the cashier. Employees are directed not to intervene to avoid harm and for fear of being sued. Walgreens Walmart CEOs and spokespeople were called to obtain accurate information regarding the amount of loss and did not return calls.

Police are not always notified.

ACT reached out to the Wisconsin Organized Retail Crime Association and received this reply, which has been shared with the APD and the Mayor.


Thanks for reaching out to WIORCA and for your interest in retail crime in your area.

WIORCA does not speak for any individual retailer, but I can tell you that many retailers’ policies and procedures that address theft have changed over the last several years. They are focused on the safety of their teams and customers rather than catching the bad actors. This certainly impacts reporting and skews crime statistics to appear as though the problem of retail theft is being overstated. Unfortunately, retailers have been forced into this for many reasons including the violence that often accompanies retail crime, underfunded law enforcement which is delaying response during retail crime incidents, and the general acceptance of people being masked in public.

Any suggestion that retail crime is urban legend or that it is not a serious problem is just misguided politics that will lead to additional decay of the retail environment. This organization would not exist if the problem wasn’t real.

Appleton is not immune from the problem and as an investigator of organized retail crime, I can tell you I have conducted multiple investigations that impacted the Appleton area where the police were not called because the stores were simply not aware of the thefts due to staffing levels.

Law enforcement funding is critical to investigating retail crime after the crimes have been committed and critical to timely response when they are in the process of being committed.

Unfortunately, I cannot offer you any statistics that are specific to your geography to prove the problem. What I can say is if one were to go into a retail store one can see the symptoms of the problem firsthand. Go into a retail store and see what products are locked up or protected in some manner. Knowing customers can’t shop these items easily, retailers don’t put that protection on merchandise without a legitimate reason and significant investment. Keeping merchandise on the shelf and being in stock of the things customers want to purchase has become a real problem, caused by the increase in retail theft of these items. In this day and age of online shopping and delivery, retailers do not want to inconvenience any customer who comes to their store to shop, but they have to make tough decisions to lock up certain products or not have them for customers to purchase. Retailers are investing more these days than ever before to mitigate crime in their environments.

The National Retail Federation is the leading organization when it comes to measuring the impact of retail theft. Here is a link to an article published explaining their findings.

Please let me know if I can assist in any other way.

Thank you.

Telly Knetter
WIORCA- President

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