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Gas stations getting hit hard by retail theft: "It's money right out of your pocket"

Retail theft taking toll on some gas stations
Retail theft taking toll on some gas stations 02:28

MINNEAPOLIS — A week after Target said they were closing nine stores due to repeated theft, we are learning more about how the places we go to gas up are also getting hit hard.

It's a store known for its convenience, but the owner of the Stop and Shop on 1st Avenue in Minneapolis is dealing with some crippling inconveniences. Joe Zerka says shoplifting is rampant.

"Oh, it's daily, dozens of times a day for sure, and that's what we're catching," Zerka said.

RELATED: Target closes 9 stores in 4 cities due to spike in organized retail crime

He says overall, he loves his job and his customers.

"We have great customers, but it's the 1% that like to mess with us a little bit, you know, like to steal and cause problems, and we do our best we can to combat that," he said.

Zerka has added bulletproof glass, which came in handy when a person tried to break in with a 30-pound rock — something he caught on camera. He also has mounds of counterfeit cash, and has invested more than $10,000 in security cameras, which have captured images that are hard to see. He says the situation hurts.  


"It's huge. I mean, it's money right out of your pocket. You know, that money could be used to give raises for my staff," Zerka said.

The MPD's 5th Precinct is directly across the street, but Zerka doesn't call or make reports.

"No, we can't call the police 50 times a day. You know, they won't show up. If we call for a petty little thing, the person's already left, the person who stole is gonna walk away," he said.

WCCO got some insight on the response from former St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, who is now a security consultant.

"The resources in police departments across the country continue to struggle. There are less officers on the streets we know today in Minneapolis and St. Paul than we've seen in decades," Axtell said. "We have to prioritize the most pressing, violent calls."

RELATED: Mall of America holds summit on rising organized retail theft

Axtell says he believes there has to be enough officers to intervene, and consequences with the justice system.

Zerka says nearby encampments have added another layer to a complex problem that many business owners want solved.

"I hope the people that need help get help so they can stop stealing," Zerka said.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association says owners in general are seeing a spike in thefts, and particularly lottery ticket smash-and-grabs.

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