Police getting a head start on shoplifters

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Police in one Johnson County city say it's game on.

During the past four days, Overland Park Police say they've arrested 14 shoplifters, and there's a plan in place to grab even more petty thieves.

They're shoplifters with expensive tastes. Overland Park Police spokesperson John Lacy says the 14 shoplifters arrested often work in teams, walking into stores like the ones at Oak Park Mall, operating together to distract workers while they help themselves to expensive goods. A police report from July 27th and 28th details nearly $2,000 in high-end women's clothing that a shoplifter tried to nab.

"We're going to be all over the city of Overland Park," Ofc. Lacy told FOX 4 News.

Ofc. Lacy says police are getting aggressive with shoplifters. Detectives in plain clothes will visit many of those stores in the near future, from the big name retailers to the mom & pop shops, hidden in plain sight as they watch for thieves as they steal.

"They're looking for these groups who are stealing, and they've identified several groups who are stealing from these retail stores. That being said, it's major chain stores and small stores. We're going to be all over the area," Ofc. Lacy said.

Police sent out a Tweet on Wednesday morning, saying they've recovered over $2,600 in stolen goods from recent thefts. The Tweet is also a warning to shoplifters that law enforcement intends to prosecute them when they're caught.

News of the police activity sounds like a win to store managers at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, which sits in downtown Overland Park. ​Laura Thompson has worked there as a manager for three years, and she's sure the store has been shoplifted in the past, but the police's effort to curb the problem is reassuring.

"I think it's amazing they're going to do that. I appreciate the added police presence, and they're stepping it up," Thompson said on Wednesday.

Thompson says her store has surveillance cameras, and staff members keep small items clear of the doors. Plainclothed police will help too.

We know they're here and they have a presence. It makes us feel more secure," Thompson smiled.

"We're watching them, and they know we're watching them," Ofc. Lacy warned shoplifters.

Police won't say which stores were robbed during the recent shoplifting sting, but the busy season for theft is approaching. Ofc. Lacy says retail theft rises as the holiday season draws closer. That's why police are getting an early start.

Ofc. Lacy says Overland Park Police Detectives have also discovered a website where shoplifters communicate with one another, sharing tops on how best to rob each store and getaway clean. Ofc. Lacy says that information is helping police know where criminals may strike next.