AUBURN, Maine — The Auburn Police Department is going to start shaming shoplifters by posting mug shots online to deal with what police describe as an out-of-control problem.
Police blame a spike in shoplifting on opioid use in Maine. Shoplifting has increased by 84 percent in the first five months of 2018, police said.
“We want people to know that Auburn is open for business but closed to shoplifting,” said Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen.
The Sun Journal reports that anyone charged with shoplifting will be arrested instead of being given a summons. Their mug shot taken at the Androscoggin County jail, along with their name and the charge, will be posted on the Auburn Police Department Facebook page.
People are walking out of stores with goods such as televisions, power tools, clothing, food and jewelry. “It runs the whole gamut,” Moen said.
Another growing method is what he calls “skip-scanning.” Shoppers go to a self-checkout and scan some, but not all, of their items.
The new policy was met with skepticism on the very Facebook page where mug shots will eventually be posted once a week.
Some called it un-American to post photos of people who’ve been charged with, but not convicted of, a crime. Others decried the public shaming.
Alyssa Pelchat, a social worker, said Thursday that she found the policy to be “reprehensible.” She said shaming doesn’t work for people who are desperate enough to steal.
“I totally understand that people are frustrated with the shoplifting issue, but this isn’t going to be effective,” she said. “It’s a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of energy, because it takes a lot of manpower and resources to incarcerate someone, even overnight,” she added.
Eric Yoder, who said he worked in loss prevention, supported the public shaming. He said that his experience was that many who steal didn’t do so out of necessity.
“There is a wide variety of social/welfare programs out there to help people in need of basics: food, clothing, housing,” he wrote. “So the excuses don’t wash.”