DECATUR — The arrests of retail workers in Decatur and Forsyth charged with stealing hundreds of dollars from their employers is the latest example of a recent rise in such cases, police say. 

Law enforcement officials in Decatur and Macon County said it’s not unusual to see a spike in retail crimes in the run up to the festive season, when desperate people try to steal their way to a better Christmas.

“Yes, a lot of times during the Christmas season we will see an uptick,” said Lt. Jamie Belcher with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

The most recent examples of in-store thefts were highlighted with the arrest Saturday at Decatur’s Target store of one of its 18-year-old former cashiers. He was jailed after being accused of electronically loading multiple store gift cards with $600 which he never paid back.

Police said in a sworn affidavit that he used the cards to to buy two video game systems and three Apple Watches and had loaded another card with $250 before he was caught by the store’s “asset protection team leader.” The cashier was arrested on a preliminary charge of theft; preliminary charges are subject to review by the state’s attorney’s office.

A former employee of the Ulta Beauty store in Forsyth’s Hickory Point Mall also was arrested Friday on a preliminary charge of theft. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office said she took $2,600 between June and October.

Det. Sgt. Chris Copeland with Decatur Police Department had also noted a rise in such thefts around the holidays when cash woes caused by other problems are felt more acutely. “Not commenting on any specific cases, but money troubles often play a part, whether it be from overwhelming medical bills, poor money management, gambling or substance abuse,” he said in an email.

Among other employee thefts recently reported by police, on Dec. 8 a 34-year-old cashier at the Fairview Plaza Kroger was arrested on charges of stealing $1,300 out of her cash register. In late November, a 49-year-old former ADM Credit Union employee was charged with stealing more than $66,000 by siphoning money from customer accounts.

Belcher said modern methods of tracking money mean that employees who steal from stores will get caught. He said the situation can be more challenging to nail rogue bank and credit union employees who carefully target their thefts over time from customers and steal small amounts from large accounts.

“But they will get caught,” he said.

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Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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