Tough Economy Fuels Crime, Shoplifting

In suburban Dallas, Simms White was on the lookout for a Grinch who seemed determined to steal his Christmas -- a package left on his porch by the mailman. And, he got it all on tape, CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

"She just took advantage of the situation. She saw a box on the porch and decided she would pick it up," White said.

And it's not just snatching presents from porches. There are car thefts and house burglaries -- and while law enforcement officials know that holiday crime is as common as Christmas trees, this year's economic downturn appears to be driving the numbers way up.

In Northern California, police caught another package-snatcher on tape. And this year almost 50 percent of police agencies across the country report an increase in burglaries this year. More than 40 percent say they've seen an increase in thefts.

In Fairlawn, N.J., Police Chief Erik Rose's officers helped the county prosecutor haul in four people accused of burglarizing 11 homes in northern New Jersey's wealthiest county.

He says the season and the economy will help keep police busy.

"There are people that may have jobs and when they have jobs aren't predisposed towards crime. But when they don't have jobs -- nothing justifies crime, but they may decide that's an alternative," Rose said.

For retailers, it means more shoplifters hurting the bottom line.

"Now we are seeing a rocket trajectory. And its increasing, not just in Main Street or Wall Street, it's increasing across America," said Paul Jones of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Shoplifting is up between 10 percent and 20 percent. In fact, one in 11 Americans shoplift, costing stores $35 million a day.

In Staten Island, N.Y., one mall is turning to a novel counter-measure -- pictures of frequent shoplifters posted on video screens for everyone to see.
  • Randall Pinkston

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