Panama City Beach Police Crack Down on Spring Break Shoplifting

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PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Spring breakers pump millions of dollars into the local economy but some businesses say they're also losing money because of the young visitors. Police and retail businesses say they've seen a big increase in shoplifting.

Camille Darley says she see a lot of shoplifters at the beach store where she works. Managers give her and her co-workers the authority to handle each situation as they see fit.

Alvin's Island Sales Associate Camille Darley said, "We are allowed to ask them to leave the store but usually if they're stealing something we would call immediately as soon as we know."

She means they call police. Associates at local stores like Alvin’s Island say they haven't caught any thieves in the act but they have found tags and broken items scattered around the store.

"You have two-to-three hundred thousand kids here in the last couple of weeks crime is going to go up, especially theft,” said Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman

Since Friday Panama City Beach police have reported 18 theft related arrests - and the stores don't usually let the thieves slide.

"There might be some incidents where if they're extremely busy, the store just wants to basically 'I don't want them in jail I just want them to pay us back' we can do a notice. But most of our kids go to jail when they shoplift,” Whitman said.

Whitman reports the breakers are hitting some of the larger stores like those in Pier Park. Regardless of where it happens, Darley says it's not a harmless crime.

"It's unfair to us because we take the loss, not them. All we can do is notify the police,” said Darley.

Law enforcement increases their security during the spring break months and they will continue to patrol businesses and shopping centers.