"It was so blatant, that’s what riled me up," Keizer, Ore., resident Andrew Sullivan, who filmed the incident, told the Keizer Times. "They were just strolling through the parking lot, just riding the carts."
The incident unfolded in broad daylight on Aug 25, with the video showing two men pushing shopping carts loaded with electric wire walking out of the Lowe’s doors as two employees are helpless to stop them.
A Lowe’s employee standing at the door asked the men to show their receipt as they approached, but they kept moving. Another Lowe’s employee is then seen approaching the men in the video, to which the first employee said, "Hey don’t do this. It’s not worth it."
"I think these guys have done it before because they seemed to have a good system. One guy with the car and two guys with the carts. They knew no one was going to touch them," said Sullivan, who also recorded the men loading a red Subaru with the merchandise.
Many commenters on the video expressed outrage and wondered if local police would investigate the situation. Lowe’s eventually reported the incident, and an investigation is ongoing, but Keizer Police Lt. Andrew Copeland noted that in Oregon, many jails aren’t taking offenders such as shoplifters, in order to cut back on their populations during COVID-19.
Copeland said the men would likely face fines, citations and then be released.
"Once you’ve stolen from Lowe's once and know they can't stop you, there’s no real consequence," Copeland said, noting employees at many chain stores aren’t allowed to stop shoplifters. "Second thing is, these people know they can’t go to jail."
Sullivan, who is an electrician, and Copeland valued the merchandise at about $2,000. Copeland said the suspects would likely strip the Romex wire for its valuable copper inside.
Shoplifting incidents have been cropping up across the country in recent months, most notably in California. In one instance this summer, two men in a Los Angeles suburb were seen on camera brazenly leaving a TJ Maxx store with their arms full of shoplifted items.
"They didn’t even run out, they walked out," Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jerretta Sandoz told CBS LA of the incident in July. "And so, that’s sending a message that we, the criminals, are winning."
Employees at TJ Maxx are told not to confront shoplifters, and Sandoz said she blamed the incident on Prop 47, a 2014 referendum that lowered criminal sentences on crimes such as shoplifting.
"If they’re caught, they’re probably given the equivalent of a traffic ticket," she told CBS LA. "So it’s not taken seriously."