Thieves prey on Walmart and Target using dangerous ‘distraction’ technique to steal items after stores lock up goods

THIEVES have been accused of lighting fires as a distraction so they can steal items from Walmart and Target.

Cops are investigating the recent blazes at outlets in Georgia as arson.

Theft remains a major problem for retailers such as Target and Walmart.

Both outlets have resorted to locking some items in cabinets at their stores as part of efforts to combat shoplifting offenses.

Fire crews charged to a Target outlet in Atlanta on January 23 after a blaze broke out at the store.

Officers believed the fire was started near a mattress, according to Atlanta News First.

Surveillance footage showing a masked shopper pushing a cart full of goods has been released by investigators.

They have identified him as a person of interest.

Footage obtained by Fox5 showed thick smoke billowing in the parking lot.

A Target spokesperson confirmed that no one was injured but warned that the store would be closed for an “undetermined amount of time.”

Fires broke out at two different Walmart outlets in Atlanta in December.

The Atlanta Fire Department said: “Investigators believe the suspects intentionally set the fires to create a distraction, allowing the offenders to shoplift items and escape as patrons rushed to exit the burning stores.”

But, cops have not confirmed a potential link to the fires.

Officers have released surveillance footage, identifying a potential person of interest following the fire at a store in Vine City, Georgia.

It has since reopened as a Walmart Neighborhood Market – a smaller outlet that provides residents with essential groceries, Axios reported.

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens said: “Food and nutrition security for Atlanta families is a moral right for our communities.”

John H. Lewis, the Vine City Civic Association Chair, said the re-opening of the store prevents the creation of a food desert.

He told Channel2: “This is the news that we were hoping for – the thousands of residents who have been customers of the Wal-Mart, including the elderly long-term residents and college students who have depended on this Wal-Mart to buy their groceries and medicines- and people who needed a place within walking distance to go to – I’m delighted for them.”

But, the other store at Howell Mill has been permanently closed after 15 years of business.

The bright flames could be seen from the store’s entrance, footage shared on social media shows.

Cops revealed millions of dollars worth of damage have been caused by the fires.

A reward of up to $10,000 has been offered for any information that leads to an arrest.

Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon warned last month that theft has been at a historically high level.

He told CNBC: “If that’s not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close.”

Shocking statistics from the National Retail Security Survey 2022 revealed that almost $100billion was lost from shrinkage.

Walmart shoppers have been outraged by the decision to put some items behind plexiglass.

Some have claimed the policy makes it “impossible” to shop.

Walmart employees have taken to TikTok to share that they know when customers are trying to steal goods.

One worker, known as Merica, claimed that suspected shoplifters glance over at her when they’re at the self-checkout.

And, former employee Athenia Camacho said staffers can track what shoppers are buying via their touch computer (TC) device.

The gadget grants them the ability to pause a customer’s self-checkout machine at any point.

She warned: “We pretend like there’s something wrong with the machine if we suspect that you are stealing.”

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