OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Shoplifting arrests at Oak Park Mall are on the rise, police said, but that could be a good thing.
Stores are getting ready for the massive holiday shopping frenzy this weekend, and undercover police are preparing behind the scenes to catch career crooks who try to blend in with shoppers.
Police said they know professional crooks try to hide inside the large crowds.
"There is a percentage whose purpose is to steal as much as they can in a certain time frame and sell it on the black market," said Detective Dennis Reaser from the Overland Park Police Department.
Reaser works with undercover officers who are used at Oak Park Mall. He said officers are teaming up with retailers to prevent thefts.
"The partnership with the retail community is absolutely crucial," he said. "They have their own intelligence with their own prevention unit and we are able to get information from them."
In 2008, there were 398 arrests for shoplifting at Oak Park Mall, and in 2009 the number jumped to 576. So far this year, 550 people have been arrested for shoplifting and police said they expect the numbers to rise during the busy holiday shopping season.
Reaser said one of the reasons why police are making more arrests is that the mall retailers have a special phone number to dial when they see a crime in progress.
"They can call us directly, and we respond under cover and make the arrest on the spot, where calling a patrol officer can take a while," he said.
Reaser said legitimate customers should be careful too. He cautioned that women should not put their purses down unattended while shopping and valuables, such as wallets, should not be left in fitting rooms.
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