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Merchants stung by seasonal thefts

MAGNOLIA PARK -- Mary Christensen has a warning for her fellow

merchants along Magnolia Boulevard -- look out for shoplifters.

However, despite shopowners warning of a theft ring, police say they

haven’t heard from the merchants.

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Burbank Police Lt. Edward Skvarna, who heads up the property crimes

division, said he doesn’t doubt the thefts have taken place but he said

the merchants haven’t been reporting the crimes to the authorities.

Although the department is aware of professional thieves and their

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practices, he said, there is little police can do if the shopkeepers

don’t let them know what is going on.

“Sometimes, people won’t report a theft because it was a $30 item,”

Skvarna said. “The thieves kind of thrive on that fact - especially

during the holiday season.”

Christensen acknowledged that she often doesn’t report thefts at her

store because the shoplifters are already gone by the time police arrive.

Although the potential for theft is something that is a constant

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concern for the owners of retail stores, Christensen said that her store,

The Bell Cottage, and others nearby are increasingly being targeted by

professional thieves.

In the the past few months, Christensen said, the merchants have been

victimized by people who often work in groups and who have their sights

on glass art, ceramic figurines and other collectibles worth several

hundred dollars each.

“Lately, we’ve had more theft than we have ever had,” Christensen

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said. “We don’t know what we can do, but the public needs to be aware of

it.”

In several recent incidents, she said, the shoplifters have been

well-dressed and carried purses large enough to hide the items. At times,

the thieves have left the store and changed clothes before returning to

continue their shoplifting spree, Christensen said.

“These are professionals who know what they’re doing,” she said. “As

soon as we turn our backs, the people will take what they want.”

Ken Norman, who co-owns Atomic Records on Magnolia, said his store has

also had a lot of thefts recently, including one in which a woman hid a

stack of CDs in her dress.

“It’s just something that increases during the holidays,” he said.

“We just keep a closer eye. There’s really not a lot you can do.”

Police agreed that keeping a watchful eye on customers is a good idea.

“The way to deter theft is good customer service,” said Det. John

Dilibert. “Stay with the customer and keep asking if they need help.”


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