Pleasant Hill retailers fight back against rising thefts

Pleasant Hill retailers fight back against rising thefts

Pleasant Hill retailers fight back against rising thefts
Dick’s Sporting Goods in Pleasant Hill has done a good job of training staff about calling when they see a crime in progress and has a robust information sharing program. (Pete Cruz photo)

PLEASANT HILL, CA (Feb. 18, 2023) — A string of thefts in January, including multiple occurrences on a single day at one of the city’s biggest retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, served as a further reminder of the persistent challenges that area retailers and the police are combatting.

But Pleasant Hill retail outlets are hardly throwing up the white flag of surrender. Rather, owners and operators are taking advantage of the tools and resources available through local law enforcement to deter new and repeat offenders.

There was a 64.8% increase in reported shoplifting cases from 2021 (318) to 2022 (524), according to the Pleasant Hill Police Department. Lt. Matt Kristic of the agency’s Support Services Division identified two notable factors that have contributed to the rise: an increase in organized retail theft and businesses recognizing the importance of reporting shoplifting crimes.

“Businesses’ underreporting of any crime does not help us fight crime, so we definitely have more businesses that are proactive in calling the Police Department when they’ve had a theft or are experiencing a theft in progress,” Kristic said.

Leveling up Dick’s staff

In the case of Dick’s, Kristic noted that the department has worked closely with the retailer over the past year to develop a system with the store’s staff to report incidents more effectively.

Dick’s has done a good job of training staff about calling when they see a crime in progress and has a robust information sharing program, including passing photos between its stores, he added.

The retailer is also heeding a request to redeploy uniformed security guards, which were effective during the holiday season to dissuade would-be thieves.

The department further helps by having multiple units – both marked and unmarked vehicles – patrolling the south end of Pleasant Hill in order to respond in a timely manner. But, there is only so much the authorities can do.

“We have given them good recommendations. Some have been implemented and some they say they can’t,” Kristic said, citing corporate decisions for the store, including use of both entrances and where high-end merchandise is placed.

Thwarting repeat ­offenders

As the battle rages on for the city’s retailers, the PC 602 Trespass Letter can be a useful weapon. Kristic explained the notice serves as a deterrent to fend off repeat offenders suspected of theft or who are creating a disturbance that is causing problems for a business.

Issuance of the trespass admonition prevents an individual from being at the business for 12 months. If the order is violated, there’s risk of arrest for criminal trespass.

In 2022, more than 40 retail businesses in Pleasant Hill utilized the PC 602 Trespass Letter. Some of the larger businesses invoking it include Target, Nordstrom Rack, Safeway, Kohl’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Throughout 2022, about 200 trespass letters were served. The police departments in Concord and Pittsburg also use the PC 602 letters.

Kristic explained that in many cases, a business may not seek prosecution for thefts as that means time in court. A more desirable outcome for the business is having the property returned.

“I don’t hear about businesses saying the police are not doing enough,” Kristic said.

Right on Target

Each retailer takes its own approach, and Target at the north end of Pleasant Hill has been more proactive about theft prevention.

Kristic lauded steps such the use of trained uniformed and plainclothes security guards to scrutinize patrons. “They make their presence known that they are there,” Kristic said.

The store also actively shares information about incidents with area Targets.

Should a situation arise, employees know to provide info like descriptions of suspects and vehicles and to stay on the line with police dispatch.

Target opted to close a second entrance through the garden department, so there would be only a single entry and exit point to the parking lot off Contra Costa Boulevard.

“Target has always been good and proactive,” said Kristic. “We have not had any issues.”

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.