Burlington police cracking down on thieves targeting shoppers

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Burlington police are trying to crack down on thieves targeting shoppers who leave valuable, personal items unattended in shopping carts.

It’s a crime Sergeant Dalton Majors says usually increases during the holidays.

"Most people get caught up in shopping or kids,” he said. “They just forget."

Majors says items like purses, wallets, laptop computers and phones have been stolen within seconds from shoppers at stores throughout the city over the past six weeks.

"You name it, they were taking it," he said.

From November to Dec. 31, 2013, there were 34 reported thefts from shoppers throughout the city.

In 2014, that number dropped to 12 as police have taken a proactive approach to catch thieves in the act.

Dec. 15, 18 and 19, undercover officers visited two Walmarts and three Food Lions in Burlington. Valuable items were left in shopping carts unattended.

One person was caught.

Three shoppers turned the items in and were given gift cards as a reward.

"We were definitely happy to give out more gift cards then we had to arrest people," Majors said.

Honesty police say shoppers can't always rely on.

"Keep an eye on your valuables,” Majors said. “Don't walk away from your shopping cart."

Some shoppers take those precautions a step further.

“We put it in our baby bag, no one really messes with that stuff,” said shopper Trey Andrews.

"You usually wait until it happens to you before you take precautions,” said Jenn Fry, a shopper. “So I will try to be more diligent. Cross my fingers."