WREG takes a closer look at serial shoplifting in Shelby County that could affect consumers

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- Serial shoplifting is a major problem in Shelby County, and it could affect your wallet.

The numbers are staggering.

So far this year there's been nearly 3,000 cases of shoplifting reported in Memphis and Shelby County. That does not include the suburbs or the cases that do not get reported.

It's hurting some businesses' bottom line so much they reached out to WREG's Shay Arthur to expose the suspects.

WREG researched the black market problem, how it can affect you and what law enforcement is doing to stop it.

It`s common knowledge when you go to pretty much any retail shop you`re under some type of surveillance.

However, dozens of videos given to WREG from convenience stores around Memphis make it appear the suspects don't seem to care.

"It`s unbelievable. I can`t imagine doing something like that. It seems like the people who are doing this don`t care if they get caught," exclaimed Salman, one of the store owners.

Salman operates 12 of the many Exxon, Hop-Ins around the Memphis area. He was not comfortable using his full name or showing his face because he`s working to get these thieves caught on camera stealing from his stores.

"When you see the same person coming in every single day, taking the same beer every single day you can just imagine what kind of losses that can lead to," he said.

Video after video he sent WREG appears to show bold thieves, blatantly stealing cases of beer or other items. Cashiers are often helpless to stop them.

Petty as it seems, these crimes add up.

Last year, Salman estimated he lost $100,000.

"The way we`re trending this year, it`s gone up quite a bit. We`re trending to lose over $200,000 in just these petty thefts," he explained.

Petty thefts that can turn into something more.

One person, who appears to steal chips was in such a hurry to leave they backed into a pump and caused $1,500 in damage.

Another man caught camera decided not to go for small items in the store and went straight to the register.

"The police are doing everything they can. They`ve been very helpful to us, but we want to be able to put the word out," said Salman.

Lieutenant David Ballard is part of a team trying to help.

"ALERT stands for Area Law Enforcement Retailers Team," said Ballard.

It's a branch of the Shelby County Sheriff`s Office that tracks retail crime.

The numbers he shared with us were staggering.

Since January 1, there have been nearly 3,000 misdemeanor shoplifting incidents

A little more than 1,100 of those were at convenience stores.

Ballard said why these stores are targeted varies.

He said sometimes it`s for personal consumption, but other times the items are being used to trade for drugs.

"They`ll steal a volume of these items from multiple stores and then take them to another store and resell them even though that store owner knows they`re stolen," explained Ballard.

The smaller stores purchase the stolen beer or snacks to make fast cash.

"They`re buying them for about 25 to 40 cents on the dollar. I mean let's face it, they`re trying to turn a profit, and if they can get the merchandise you know from a guy on the streets versus the vendor delivering it to them, they`re making a lot more money. Tax-free," said the Lieutenant.

"Some people this is just their business. That`s what they do. When they wake up in the morning they`re coming up with a new scheme to steal and turn that merchandise over for a profit," continued Ballard.

Salman has posted pictures of the accused schemers in front of his businesses hoping someone recognizes one of the bad guys.

"We`re heavily invested in the Memphis community. We love Memphis. We live and work here, and we want to be able to stay here," he said.

How do these thefts affect us, the consumer?

"Their loss is going to be translated back to the consumer. I mean that`s just the business model," said Ballard.

That`s right, the next time you want to buy a six pack of beer it could cost you more.

While the problem may look daunting, Salman and law enforcement are asking for your help.

"We have to step up. As a community we have to step up and stop this," said Salman.

"They know about their neighborhoods more than we do. They`re there every day, and that`s why it`s imperative for the community to help us because we`re as good as the information we get," continued Ballard.

Lt. Ballard also said when someone is arrested for one of these crimes we think is smaller, law enforcement usually discovers they are driving a stolen vehicle, or they're connected to other crimes.