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Lowe’s rehires employee who tried to stop shoplifters

<i></i><br/>Lowe’s employee Donna Hansbrough attempted to stop one of the suspects by grabbing the shopping cart and was struck in the face three times

Lowe’s employee Donna Hansbrough attempted to stop one of the suspects by grabbing the shopping cart and was struck in the face three times

By Jamiel Lynch and Parija Kavilanz, CNN

New York (CNN) — A 68-year-old woman has her job back after she was fired last month for attempting to stop shoplifters at a Lowe’s store in Georgia.

On June 25, three suspects loaded over $2,000 worth of merchandise into shopping carts and left a Lowe’s store without paying, police said.

According to a July 20 Facebook post by the Rincon Police Department, Lowe’s (LOW)employee Donna Hansbrough attempted to stop one of the suspects by grabbing the shopping cart and was struck in the face three times, giving her a black eye.

The suspects were able to get away with the $2,101 worth of merchandise.

“The Lowes (sic) employee, Donna Hansbrough was fired for attempting to stop the theft,” the post said. “Lowes stated that Donna’s actions (grabbing the cart) was a violation of their policy and Donna was terminated as a result. Donna had worked for Lowes for 13 years.”

Lowe’s, in a statement to CNN Tuesday, confirmed that the company had rehired Hansbrough.

“After senior management became aware of the incident and spoke to Donna Hansbrough today, we are reinstating her job and we are pleased that she has accepted the offer to return to Lowe’s,” Lowe’s said.

“First and foremost, there’s nothing more important than the safety of our customers and associates. Products can be replaced; people cannot. We continue to work closely with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those who are responsible for this theft and violent attack,” the statement said.

In an updated post on Monday, the Rincon police department said that one of the suspects remained at large and the other two are in custody.

“Lastly we are happy to announce that Lowes has given Donna her job back,” the post added.

Retailers nationwide are grappling with persistent incidents of crime, including petty shoplifting and more dangerous, sometimes violent, cases of organized retail theft involving groups of individuals targeting a single store to a number of stores in a single spree.

The planned brazen heists are robbing stores of merchandise from everyday products to pricey luxuries. In some cities like San Francisco, retailers are closing up shop, pointing the finger at crime.

Nationally, merchandise “shrink,” or the value of merchandise lost to theft, fraud, damage and other reasons, is estimated to have cost retailers $94.5 billion in 2021, up 4% from $90.8 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation, which attributed nearly half of the loss to large-scale theft.

But this wave of retail crime isn’t being relegated to just big coastal cities in America. Smaller Midwestern cities are also wrestling with the gravity and pervasiveness of the problem.

In Kansas, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, said retail crime is a “spiraling problem,” adding that Kansas and Missouri are among the top 10 states in the nation for the volume of retail crime. Kansas lost approximately $642 million in stolen goods in 2021, he said.

Kobach said that the one scourge is being fueled by another: drugs, especially fentanyl addiction.

“There is a link between drug trafficking and organized retail crime,” Kobach told lawmakers in June. “Organized retail crime is a problem that is getting worse, not better. And it does not exist in a vacuum. These criminal enterprises often overlap with the trafficking of drugs.”

Regarding measures to take in the event of a store crime, industry experts said most retailers have a standing policy that employees should not attempt to intervene in any way.

“These situations always are a delicate balance,” said Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida and director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, which includes members Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD)and Gap (GPS).

“You’re dealing with potentially very aggressive and violent people committing these crimes,” he stressed. “Retailers have seen employees lose their lives when they’ve tried to intervene.”

Last month, Lululemon reeiterated the company’s “absolute zero-tolerance policy” for “engaging with guests in a way that could put themselves, or others in harm’s way” for its decision to fire two employees who tried to intervene during a theft at one of its stores.

The incident took place in late April at its store in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

Cellphone footage from the store shows two men wearing hoodies and face masks rush into the store and grab armloads of merchandise from areas closest to the entrance of the store and then rush out. One female employee is seen near the entrance of the store close to where the men are, heard yelling “get out” repeatedly. It is unclear if the footage was taken by a customer or an employee.

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