MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shoplifting is on the rise, as Memphis Police post more and more security camera photos of thieves blatantly stealing thousands in merchandise daily. Business owners are sick of it and want a solution.

Felony and misdemeanor shoplifting numbers continue to rise. There have been 7,234 reports in 2023, compared to 5,124 at this time in 2022 — a 41% increase in just a year.

Ashley Harris is VP of finance for Stepherson’s Superlo Foods. A  photo of a woman stealing $1,000 in goods in July from the Superlo store on Winchester still has Harris seeing red.

“Oh, it’s extremely upsetting. Our employees are very upset,” Harris said. “We’re employee-owned so every basket that walks out that door is hurting their bottom line as well because they own shares in our company.”

Some are hopeful a new program launched by the Shelby County DA’s office could start to bring shoplifting numbers down.

David LaBahn, president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, says the goal is to distinguish between organized retail theft like smash and grab and focus instead on root causes and remedies for low-level offenses like shoplifting, be it lack of employment, mental health, or drug addiction.

“Can we do something about shoplifting? Can we do something on the lower-level offenses? Just stop the level of recidivism,” LaBahn said.

The APA has already started a program in Memphis, creating community-based panels at Memphis Police precincts.  

The program, which started August 7, will be “evaluated for one year” to determine its effectiveness, number of participants, and their success, as well as whether they went back to a life of crime.

“Once somebody is apprehended for shoplifting, then they have the choice. You can go to court or you can sign up and engage with the community panel,” LaBahn said.

The goal is accountability, and Harris is looking for positive results soon.

“Sometimes maybe they can turn someone around and be a good citizen, a good community person,” Harris said.