Shoplifting on the rise in Dinkytown

Ellen Schmidt

Dinkytown Wine and Spirits owner Irv Hershkovitz was dumbfounded when a University of Minnesota student slipped an $8 bottle of liquor down his pants.
“How dumb are you? Why would you do that with two cops standing right here?” he recalled asking the student. 
The student replied with a laugh and a smirk, Hershkovitz said, then police took his driver’s license information, issued him a ticket and sent him on his way.
Hershkovitz said shoplifting instances like this are increasingly common at his store on 15th Avenue Southeast. And the trend isn’t unique to his business — police say theft reports near neighborhoods surrounding the University have risen in recent years.
But while some businesses are ramping up their security to discourage stealing, others choose not to report incidents to the police, which law enforcement says isn’t helping the problem.
“[Businesses] need to call so we can look at these things and appropriate what we call ‘hot spots’ — or areas where we can concentrate more patrol during the busier times — as at least some kind of deterrent,” said Minneapolis Police Officer Andrew Enriquez, who patrols the Dinkytown and surrounding areas.
Most shoplifters don’t get arrested, he said, but receive a misdemeanor citation. Usually, to be arrested, he said someone must pass the sales counter with at least $500 in merchandise.
That amount of liquor would typically be too large to steal, Enriquez said.
Dinkytown Wine and Spirits general manager Doug Miller said shoplifters usually try to take one or two items.
“Nine out of 10 times that we catch [shoplifters] … they’ll have enough money in their pocket to pay for what they just stole but just steal it instead,” he said.
Because people don’t usually steal expensive goods, businesses may not see the benefit in calling police, Enriquez said.
He said he reports students caught stealing to the University’s Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity.
The Student Conduct Code prohibits thefts both on and off campus, OSCAI director Sharon Dzik said, and consequences can include community service and restitution.
She said more cases of on-campus shoplifting, especially at the bookstore, are reported to her office than off-campus ones.
Although they’re not as commonly reported to the University, Enriquez said shoplifting rates have jumped in the Dinkytown area.
In the past two years, one-third of the 1,800 thefts reported to Minneapolis’ second precinct took place in the Dinkytown area, he said.
Hershkovitz said he has plans to increase security measures to combat the problem. 
Since he remodeled his store in 2011, he said, it’s been harder to catch shoplifters before they go out the door.
Hershkovitz said he has more floor employees on busy nights, but they still don’t prevent all thefts.  
It’s become a large enough financial setback that he said he’s planning to install a more advanced security system.
The system will require stickers to be put on all items in the store, which will set off an alarm upon exiting the store if they haven’t been demagnetized by the cashier.
Hershkovitz wants to install the new security measures as soon as possible and said they’ll be in place before the beginning of next school year. 
“It’s peace of mind,” he said.