Gallery photo shows Lifestyles and Caroline and Main owner Heidi West as she demonstrates the ease of committing a larceny. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Heidi West is quite familiar with the methods used by thieves who target retail business on Broadway, especially boutiques like hers that specialize in designer clothing and accessories.
West, the owner of Lifestyles and Caroline and Main, has dozens of security cameras situated strategically in both shops to record almost every larceny that takes place.
“We see people stealing from us all the time,” she says. “We know who you are. Why do you keep doing it?”
According to an email summary of a Sept. 20 meeting sent by Maddy Zanetti, president of the city’s Downtown Business Association (DBA), a number of DBA members indicated that theft and shoplifting were “up this summer.”
“It definitely seems to be a growing issue,” Zanetti said this week, during a brief break from serving her customers at Impressions of Saratoga. “We’re hoping it’s not something that continues.”
Zanetti said that DBA members—there are approximately 200—have noticed more seemingly professional thieves make off with merchandise from Broadway boutiques.
West expressed caution about stirring up fears of a larger trend, but knows for sure that theft is affecting hers and many other businesses. “If someone says they don’t have an issue, they just don’t know,” she said.
“The police are very good working with us. They get down here very quickly,” West added.
West said she has filed two separate lawsuits against apparent thieves that are currently making their way through the courts. One involves felony grand larceny charges because a sister and brother team allegedly stole more than $1,000 of merchandise.
“If you catch someone, you need to go through the system,” she advised. “It teaches somebody not to shoplift in Saratoga.”
Laura Farrar-Pileckas, owner of Violet’s in the Collamer Building, said diligent efforts by her employees have ensured that this year was relatively mild theft-wise compared to previous years.
Ultimately, according to both West and Farrar-Pileckas, security cameras are not enough. The employees of Broadway businesses are the owners’ best guard against these types of problems, they indicated.
“We notice if one dress is missing here,” Farrar-Pileckas said. “We have a great staff.”
Farrar-Pileckas recalled an incident in which one woman took full advantage of a busy moment in the store, when every employee was helping other customers. The woman brazenly stole a designer handbag off its shelf holder and stuffed it inside the bag she was carrying, and managed to exit the store before anyone noticed.
In another incident last year, Farrar-Pileckas remembered, one keenly observant employee went to the Saratoga Race Course and spotted a dress that was stolen from Violet’s earlier in the day. She said the alleged thief—whom she described as an attractive brunette in her ‘30s—was seen in the store again not too long afterward, so it became necessary to confront her.
Farrar-Pileckas said a chase ensued on the sidewalks, and that she caught up with the woman to demand payment for the stolen dress. The woman pulled out a wad of cash and did pay the $300 cost.
“I just walked back in with the money,” Farrar-Pileckas said about her return to Violet’s, which elicited smiles of relief among the ladies by her side.
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