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Grocery Retailer Says It’s Trying; Officials Not So Sure

While local officials wait to reschedule a meeting with Safeway representatives about continuing problems with shoplifted alcohol, particularly by minors, law enforcement in Fort Bragg, California, and throughout the region described similar issues with a retailer reluctant to pursue prosecution or take measures to make it harder to steal booze.

A Safeway representative, meanwhile, maintained that the company is doing all it can. “Safeway takes shoplifting in its stores very seriously,” wrote spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall in an email Wednesday. “While we cannot share the specifics of our theft prevention and apprehension practices in a public setting, the company has policies and procedures in place to prevent theft and to address it when it occurs in our stores, including cooperating with law enforcement when criminal prosecution is appropriate.”

According to Fort Bragg police Chief Fabian Lizarraga, local officers responded to 979 calls for service to the Fort Bragg Safeway in 2018 and are on a similar pace this year, with 501 calls through September 16. Of the 2018 calls, he said, 47 were for shoplifting, 14 for disorderly conduct and 15 for trespassing. Safeway filed two crime reports that year, he said.

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Gutshall denied that the company has a “no prosecution” policy. “The perception of some that Safeway “refuses to prosecute,” shoplifters is simply not true and may stem from a lack of understanding of the requirements retailers traditionally use for shoplifting stops.”

She blamed Proposition 47, the statewide initiative passed in 2014 that reduced the penalties for some crimes, mostly to relieve jail overcrowding. “Like other retailers,” Gutshall wrote, “we face the difficult and increasing problem of losses caused by shoplifting, particularly in the post Proposition 47 environment. Store management for the Fort Bragg Safeway works closely with local law enforcement authorities on a variety of matters, including shoplifting. Our local Asset Protection Manager has spoken with Chief Lizarraga multiple times toward rescheduling the meeting with Fort Bragg officials. We look forward to continuing the conversation to address any community concerns.” However, the strong impression among local and regional law enforcement is that the company refuses to prosecute… Advocate News

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