Increase in thefts hurting retailers' holiday hauls

BELLINGHAM - A tough sales month for Locust, a clothing store on Railroad Avenue in downtown Bellingham, got tougher on Nov. 23, when burglars broke in, damaged merchandise and made off with about $1,500 worth of products, employee Matt Mikota said.

It was the second time Locust had been burglarized in November. The burglars who hit the store Nov. 23 also broke into five other stores in the same complex. All told, they stole about $5,000 worth of stuff, according to police

In a nationwide recession that's tightening shoppers' spending budget in the ever-important holiday retail season, the crimes hurt, Mikota said.

So, businesses on that block banded together to get tough on crime, Mikota said.

He said an employee at the Bob's Burger and Brew on East Holly Street, which the burglars tried to break into but couldn't, heard about the crimes, reviewed surveillance videotape and got footage of the burglars. He turned it over to police and within a day two people were arrested.

"We act like a community if anyone of us has issues," Mikota said.

Bellingham Police Lt. Steve Felmley said this kind of collaboration is the best way to protect retailers' merchandise from thieves and prevent the loss of revenue.

The department assigns two additional officers to patrol Bellis Fair mall, downtown Bellingham and the Fairhaven district two days a week during the holiday season, Felmley said.

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