NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Opry Mills has had 14 arrests in the past three months, which means the mall is tied for the location with the fourth most arrests in Davidson County, according to data from the Metro Nashville Police Department.
The majority of the charges at the mall are for theft, mainly of $1,000 or less.
Retail crime expert and president of Alert Mid-South, Glenn Alred told News 2 that charge has become more common ever since 2017, when Tennessee raised the felony threshold for theft from $500 to $1,000.
“Just a few years ago, Tennessee’s felony was $500, and people would most times steal $490, $480 to stay under that $500,” Alred said. “Well, when they raised it to $1,000, everybody started stealing $900, and that just hurt the retailers and the shoppers because retailers, they’re not going to lose that. They’re going to turn around and inflate the prices a little bit to cover that.”
Opry Mills isn’t the only shopping mall dealing with thefts. News 2 has covered multiple “grab and runs” at the Mall at Green Hills in the past few months, as well as a weekend shoplifting incident at the Michael Kors store in the newly-opened Tanger Outlets in Antioch.
Over the past several years, Alred said thieves have become bolder and more violent when stealing from retail stores.
“They’ll spray [security and employees] with pepper spray or bear spray that we’ve seen recently here in Nashville, but more times than not, it’s just grab and runs. A lot of people just running in, grabbing armfuls of stuff, and running out the store,” Alfred said.
Many criminals are traveling from out-of-state to steal from Nashville stores, Alred added.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an uptick in thefts this year has forced retailers to keep more merchandise under lock and key, reduce their hours, or close down for good.
“Even though retailers continue to enhance their security measures and loss prevention technologies, sometimes more drastic action must be taken,” David Johnston, vice president of asset protection and retail operations for the NRF, said in a video produced by the federation.
The NRF issued the following statement to News 2 regarding holiday retail theft:
Retail crime continues to be of great concern ahead of this holiday season. Retailers remain focused on providing a safe shopping environment, while ensuring products are protected and available for their customers. Leveraging partnerships with local law enforcement, property managers and peer retailers will play a key role in a safe and secure holiday shopping season.
Alred said shoppers often become targets for thieves during the holiday season. He also advised customers to stay aware of their surroundings and be mindful of items left in a shopping cart.
Opry Mills management who released the following statement to News 2:
“At Opry Mills, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for our shoppers, employees and retailers. Our program is Homeland Security Safety Act Certified, which recognizes our significant and continuous efforts to safeguard the public and is implemented in close collaboration with the Metro Nashville Police Department, tenants, neighborhood organizations and others.
Elements of our program include license plate readers at all parking entrances, trained security professionals who patrol the property 24/7, hired off-duty police officers, an on-site police substation, security surveillance towers in the parking lot, a K9 to detect certain contraband and a Youth Supervision Program.
Security professionals and police are supported by the Simon Operations Intelligence Center, where highly trained specialists use purposefully built algorithms to monitor real-time risk. Our team of specialists provide real-time 24/7 CCTV camera monitoring, dispatching, and local, state and national intelligence gathering.”