A Columbia County Captain digs through 30 files of shoplifting cases. These incidents happened the last month in Columbia County, and it's becoming their largest crime. Last year alone there were hundreds of cases caught on camera, with nearly 400 arrest.
Captain, Sharif Chochol with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office says, “In the past 19 years we've had the lowest number of total crime in Columbia County. However, shoplifting is a problem for us.”
Columbia County police say they're not seeing a pattern with the most recent cases. People have been stealing flat screens, all the way to a single tooth brush.
Because of their impulse steals–some suspects can face federal prison.
“Anything up to 500 dollars is misdemeanor offense. Anything over 500 dollars would be considered a felony,” says Chochol.
The Sheriff's office says the cameras are not intimidating enough to the thieves and they can't prevent the crime, they can only stop it. That's why they've started a shop lifting prevention team… adding a larger police presence at the stores where cases occur the most.
Chochol explains, “What we've done is used a combined effort with our bike patrol officers, our patrol deputies, and our crime suppression unit.”
They hope by having visible and undercover deputies as secret shoppers this will lower the crime rate… However, some stores have a policy of not approaching the suspect. That's one thing the sheriff's office is trying to change.
“Some of the stores have to call us after the fact. That's when we turn to you, the media for help to try to identify who the suspects are,” says Chochol.
If you see anything suspicious while you're shopping, please contact the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. 706) 541-1042.