Retail crime up 18% in Walnut Creek

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KRON) – The City of Walnut Creek is seeing an 18 percent increase in retail crime in 2023. On Tuesday, Walnut Creek police held a meeting with downtown business owners to start a conversation about retail crime and how they’re trying to prevent it.

Walnut Creek police say they knew they wanted to hold this meeting after an uptick in commercial burglaries in July. There was a pattern for those cases, and a suspect was apprehended.

But in August, they saw more burglaries, so they wanted to talk directly with the people who could become victims – business owners.

“Walnut Creek is doing well,” said city councilmember Kevin Wilk. “Our downtown community is thriving and we are going to attract, unfortunately, people who are looking to not do good here.”

Walnut Creek police and local leaders spoke directly, and candidly, with downtown business owners. They say while residential and auto burglaries are down, commercial burglaries and shoplifting are increasing.

Russel Houlston, the loss prevention manager at the Walnut Creek Ace Hardware, says he thinks the statistics are skewed.

“Retail crime, the statistics are not anywhere near what’s really going on,” he said. “But if you don’t call the police they don’t have a statistic, and we’ve pretty much stopped calling the police unless we have really actionable intelligence.”

In fact, he says there is shoplifting at his store every day, and he’s figured out a way to fight back himself.

“In a few cases where we’ve been lucky, we can see that they used a rewards card or we know what their name is. We reach out to them and bill them for the thing they stole, and 100 percent of the time they paid and they didn’t come back. That’s the most important part,” Houlston said. 

Tellus Coffee on North Main Street was burglarized earlier this month. Its owner told KRON4 that thieves got away with $450 in cash. The coffee shop was since gone cashless. 

Police say that while they are working on preventing these crimes, it is important that businesses don’t make themselves easy targets.

“As a business owner, it’s important to do what you can to protect your business and do that by making sure you have good hiring processes and good security measures in place,” said WCPD Lieutenant Jeff Slater.

Police suggest things like having an alarm system, limiting the quantity of cash on hand, and having surveillance video. Police have also increased patrols in the downtown area.

Some business owners were concerned about re-opening Broadway Plaza to traffic. Wilk, who was mayor when the organized retail theft happened at Nordstrom, says it was time.

“Now though it is a public street. There are public accessways that have to happen there,” he said. “We do want to see people be able to park more conveniently, especially when it comes to seniors or people that are disabled, but we’ll keep an eye on this.”  

Wilk says they are working with Broadway Plaza to monitor the situation, and during large-scale events, it will be shut down to traffic to prevent crimes.

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