Springfield store owner struggles to catch shoplifters with mask requirements

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:30 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - One Springfield business owner worries thieves are getting more confident, stealing while wearing masks. That business is struggling to catch shoplifters.

The owner of Mike’s Unique Antique Flea Market said earlier this week, someone strolled into his store and stole a skateboard. He said shoplifters are not a new problem. The challenge now is identifying them, with half of their faces covered.

Michael Cook said he deals with thieves every day.

“They steal a lot of CD’s, movies, jewelry, costume jewelry. They steal a lot of that.” he said.

This time, it was a 150-dollar skateboard. In the past, his high-tech security cameras have helped.

“Then we know who it is and we can ban them from the store... but now I don’t know who they are because they’re wearing masks," Cook said.

He said whoever stole that skateboard was wearing plain clothes, and said there was nothing identifiable about them.

“Short of somebody cold conking him, what are we supposed to do?” Cook asked.

Deputy Jason Winston with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office says masks don’t necessarily make it easier for thieves to take what they want.

“It doesn’t alarm the average person to see someone with a mask on because everyone is wearing them," Winston said.

The Sheriff’s Office has not changed much with its investigative tactics in light of masking ordinances. Detectives will still look at a suspect’s clothes, tattoos, facial hair or other features. Winston said they might even use a mask to help, as people are now wearing masks with different patterns, logos and materials.

“If at all possible, we could also use masks to distinguish one person from another," Winston said.

Winston encourages all businesses and homeowners to have security cameras inside and outside. He said cameras on the outside could catch vehicle descriptions or faces before being covered with a mask.

Cook said his current situation proves, that’ll only go so far.

“Myself and some other stores are just barely hanging on. We can’t afford for shoplifters to come in here and steal," Cook said.

Cook said he hopes he doesn’t have to resort to asking customers to remove their masks as they walk in, so he can have every face on file. At this point, the everyday occurrence has to stop, but Cook does not see an end in sight.

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