BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Burlington's Police Department is cracking down on repeat shoplifters from local Walmarts.
Captain Brett Taylor said there were just shy of 400 reports of larceny from Burlington's two Walmarts last year, which accounted for 45 percent of their overall retail larceny thefts.
"Quite honestly, they'll steal anything from food to televisions to anything not nailed down sometimes," said Captain Taylor. "If you're having to take someone to jail, you've gone ahead and taken your officers off the street for an hour and a half potentially. To where the citizens of this particular area of Burlington are not getting service because our officer is tied up."
Starting today, offenders who are caught stealing from a Burlington Walmart, banned from the property, and then caught stealing again from the store will not be charged with misdemeanor larceny. Instead the District Attorney will charge them with felony breaking and entering.
D.A. Pat Nadolski says other counties have successfully prosecuted repeat shoplifters under the felony B&E charge.
"We wanted to decrease the incidents of these crimes in Walmart so we can hold people that continuously do it more accountable than we are right now," Nadolski insisted.
"The bottom line is it affects the price that everybody pays," he pointed out.
Walmart spokesperson Betsy Harden said, "We do take theft in our stores very seriously."
Harden said the company is thankful for any local law enforcement measures that help with loss prevention. "We're really committed to keeping our prices low for our customers," she added. "We really appreciate the efforts of Captain Taylor and the District Attorney's office and we're happy to be partnering with them on this."
High Point shoplifters have been prosecuted under the felony B&E charge since 2009. The Guilford County D.A.'s office also uses the habitual larceny offender charge, according to High Point Police.
Thomasville Police say they've developed strategies to address a high number of thefts from their Walmart, too, by increasing patrol and presence at the property. They've discussed using the felony charge but have not yet.