INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and surrounding agencies are looking to identify and arrest a man believed to be responsible for 70 to 80 thefts from central Indiana home improvement stores.
Detective Michael Schollmeier says the man has been stealing power tools and tool kits from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s since December of 2017.
“The unofficial amount is right around $100,000 is where we’re at, what we’ve known he’s taken from the home improvement stores,” Schollmeier said.
Schollmeier says the same man has stolen items from every Home Depot and Lowe’s store in Marion County multiple times. He has also been caught on camera stealing from home improvement stores in surrounding areas, Schollmeier said. Carmel Police recently shared a photo of what appears to be the same man committing theft at a home improvement store.
“Once they saw him on video after he left, they knew it was the same guy that we were looking for down in Marion County,” Schollmeier said.
Security videos from multiple stores show what appears to be a white man in his 30s or 40s with short brown hair. The man loads several power tool kits into a cart and quickly pushes the cart past the checkout area without paying. At that point, police believe the man takes the stolen items to a small silver car with a black top and damage to the front end and back left panel.
Schollmeier says the man’s nearly two-year crime spree goes beyond simple shoplifting into the category of organized retail crime.
“We’ve only seen him ever steal power tool kits and air nailers, he’s never deviated from that,” Schollmeier said. “He’s obviously selling this stuff as his full time job, so this is what he’s doing to make money.”
Schollmeier said the thief seems to be getting more confident and is committing thefts more frequently. It’s a common theme among career crooks who know many big stores have policies designed to protect employees from being injured by criminals.
“A lot of them have policies where only loss prevention personnel are trained to stop people because they don’t want their cashiers or their managers getting hurt,” said Schollmeier.“By the time he runs out the store and then someone’s on the phone and calls loss prevention and then they look at the video, he’s already gone.”
Experts who specialize in organized retail crime say Indianapolis businesses lose roughly $1 million per year to such thefts. Nationally, organized retail crime costs companies roughly $30 billion, experts say. As a result, consumers end up paying what is called the “shoplifting tax.”
“When home improvement stores are looking a hundred grand just in one county over the course of, since 2017, those losses get passed on to the consumer, raising our prices,” Schollmeier said.
IMPD has recently put increased focus on cracking down on shoplifting and organized retail crime. In August, a two-day joint operation between IMPD and the Indiana Retail Organized Crime Coalition resulted in at least 25 arrests at big box stores.
Schollmeier said extra police patrols have been requested around Indianapolis home improvement stores. However, he said there seems to be no rhyme or reason to which store the man will hit on which day. Authorities are asking anyone with information on the thief’s identity to call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.
“We’re offering a one-thousand dollar reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of this guy,” Schollmeier said. “And we just want this guy off the street as soon as possible.”