Police have responded to more incidents — mostly shopliftings — at the Myrtle Beach Home Depot through mid-July this year than the same time period last year, but officials say it’s mainly due to an active loss-prevention department and not necessarily a rise in crime.
Multiple shopliftings, fraudulent returns and a nearby homicide have all occurred at the Myrtle Beach Home Depot store at 951 Oak Forest Lane so far this year, according to police reports.
Myrtle Beach police have been called to the Home Depot, which is near Seaboard Street, for about 40 incidents so far this year from January to mid-July, according to police reports.
Police responded to about 26 incidents during the same time period in 2014, with 19 of those incidents being for shopliftings, according to police report records.
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Shoplifting is an issue for all retailers.
Most recently, Myrtle Beach police were called out to the store twice last week about two different shoplifting incidents — one involved a man allegedly leaving the store with a pressure washer worth $1,000, the other involved a woman allegedly hiding plumbing parts in her pants, according to police reports.
Despite the growing number of shoplifting reports at the store, Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said he was not aware of anything unusual happening at the Myrtle Beach Home Depot store in terms of merchandise loss.
“Shoplifting is an issue for all retailers,” Holmes said.
However, other Home Depot stores along the Grand Strand have seen far fewer incidents than the Myrtle Beach store on Oak Forest Lane.
Lt. Raul Denis, spokesman with Horry County police, said while officers have been called out to the Murrells Inlet Home Depot store off U.S. 17 about 20 times this year from January to mid-July to investigate issues, such as loitering or a suspicious person, only six incident reports were filed in connection with crimes happening at the store, meaning there were no crimes committed during the other calls.
Denis said the six calls that resulted in reports being filed were all shoplifting incidents.
Crime reports from January to mid-July at the North Myrtle Beach Home Depot store, also off U.S. 17, roughly matched the incidents at the Murrells Inlet Home Depot store with North Myrtle Beach police being called there for about seven incidents.
Lt. Joey Crosby, spokesman with Myrtle Beach police, said that the shoplifting incident reports at the Myrtle Beach Home Depot store on Oak Forest Lane are not indicative of the crime of the area, but rather spotlight a very active loss-prevention department.
He said while the increase in reports seen highlights the active loss-prevention department, other factors could also be at work, like someone getting their hands on a stolen credit card and using it multiple times at the store.
Crosby also said that extra police cars are not sent over to the Home Depot store or others near it on Seaboard Street, but said the area is included in Myrtle Beach police patrol and is regularly monitored.
While police have seen mainly shopliftings at the Myrtle Beach Home Depot this year as well as last year, authorities made arrests on May 3 in connection with fraudulent returns, according to police reports.
A trio of men was involved in allegedly returning merchandise never paid for in exchange for cards with store credit funds, police said:
▪ Bobby Terrell Smith, 30, was charged with obtaining goods under false pretenses, along with traffic violations, including driving under a suspended license.
▪ Jason Junior Smith, 31, was charged with obtaining goods under false pretenses and giving false information to police, according to jail records.
▪ Anthony J. Stapleton, 33, was charged with shoplifting and four counts of obtaining goods under false pretenses, according to jail records.
Police said Stapleton had been seen in the store several other times from April 20-28 taking items or fraudulently returning them.
The men later plead guilty and their cases were disposed.
Holmes said Home Depot’s policy allows returns without a receipt, but will give a store credit for the items — not cash — and that the returner’s name and information go on record with the merchandise’s return.
This information was useful to Myrtle Beach police in the arrest of Jason Junior Smith because authorities said they were not able to obtain his correct name and date of birth until a Home Depot loss-prevention agent provided it from a record where a fraudulent return had just occurred, according to police report.
While police have been called out mainly for crimes involving theft, this winter Myrtle Beach authorities found a man in a crashed car in the Home Depot parking lot who had been shot to death, police said.
Berry Selmon, 50, was discovered by police about 5 a.m. Feb. 21 after it was reported that a car had crashed into a median in the parking lot, authorities said.
“It wasn’t even remotely related to our business, nor did it happen on our property,” Holmes said in an email when asked about the incident.
Keith Sheldon Levan, 39, was later charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in connection with the incident, and Penny Ellen Hubbard, 43, was charged with accessory before the fact to a felony in connection with the crime, according to arrest warrants.
Myrtle Beach residents Gayle and Ralph Richardson said they have had issues with panhandlers approaching them at both Home Depot and the Seaboard Street Wal-Mart (which is next door to Home Depot across Seaboard Street) and rarely shop at the stores now because of the incidents they’ve had.
160number of incidents reported at Wal-Mart on Seaboard Street through mid-July
“We have had several issues with people approaching us and asking for money. This has become a regular occurrence in this area. We also have had issues in the HH Gregg plaza. We actually had a man start loading mulch in our car and asked to be paid for his service [at Home Depot]…” Ralph Richardson said in an email.
The couple also said they saw two large campers in the Myrtle Beach Home Depot parking lot morning, noon and night then noticed the same campers at the Seaboard Street Wal-Mart, where Ralph Richardson said they have been parked for quite some time.
“The big thing for us is having campers in the Home Depot parking lot for weeks at a time, not just for an overnight,” Ralph Richardson said.
Holmes said that Home Depot policy does not allow campers to stay overnight in store parking lots.
Wal-Mart stores are more lenient with their camper policy, and many stores around the country do allow campers to stay in store parking lots overnight, according to the Wal-Mart website.
The website provides a list of stores around the country that do not allow overnight stays, and the Seaboard Street Wal-Mart is not on that list, nor are other Wal-Mart stores along the Grand Strand.
Myrtle Beach police have been called out the Seaboard Street Wal-Mart for 160 incidents from January to mid-July this year, according to police reports.
Police are mainly called there for shopliftings like the Home Depot stores, but authorities have responded to other incidents there such as counterfeit money use, found out-of-state fugitives and an exposure incident.
The North Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart and Conway Wal-Mart store have had a similar number of incidents, according to authorities.
Dowling said North Myrtle Beach police have also been called to the Wal-Mart there about 169 times from January to mid-July.
Lt. Selena Small with the Conway Police Department said they have received about 135 calls this year to the Wal-Mart on Church Street in Conway, with roughly 100 of those being for shopliftings, some for assaults, and two for car break-ins.
However, the latest most significant call involved a strong-armed robbery that occurred at the store on June 14, Small said.
Conway police responded about 11:45 p.m. June 14 when the victim told police a male suspect approached him about fixing his car, Small said.
The suspect assaulted the victim and tried to grab the victim’s wallet but fled when he was unsuccessful. The suspect fled with two other unknown suspects, Small said.
Arrests have not yet been made in connection with the incident, and Small said that the case is at a standstill because the victim has not been in touch with them.
“At this time the victim is not communicating with us, and we cannot move forward without victim cooperation,” Small said.