In October, Gloucester Township police arrested a man for stealing cigarettes and a phone charger, which the man planned to sell to get cash for heroin, police said.
The man, 31, had a long criminal history: Seven prior arrests for theft, as well as drug-related and domestic violence arrests, police said.
But instead of just charging the man last month, a detective told him about addiction treatment resources. After initially disregarding them, the man took up the offer to review the options.
Gloucester Township Police Chief Harry Earle recalled that story Tuesday as he announced the department's efforts to beef up security in retail stores and point addicts - who are often responsible for store theft - to treatment.
"If we wish to reduce shoplifting events in the long-term we need to address this crime utilizing multiple strategies," Earle said. "Arrest alone will not be effective."
Earle said his officers have responded to 145 shopliftings this year, down from last year, which ended with a total of 210.
Even with the decline, the department created the position of retail patrol officer this fall. Det. Anthony Massi, who filled the role, will regularly patrol stores in Gloucester Township and build relationships with the owners and employees, Earle said.
Massi was the detective in October who told the 31-year-old addict, whom police did not identify Tuesday, about treatment options. A drug counselor in the township's municipal court then identified affordable programs for the man, who could not pay for rehab because he lacked insurance, police said.
Without the intervention, Earle said the man would have likely continued shoplifting to support his drug use.
To limit such theft, Earle said officers will patrol shopping centers for Black Friday and the holiday season. He encouraged shoppers to report suspicious activity.