T.J. Maxx is again full of surprises. When about nine shoppers and associates in Oak Park Heights, Minn., at the TJX-owned store were sprayed by an unidentified chemical irritant by a fleeing shoplifter, many of those customers eventually called police. Police were surprised, because they had never heard from store management. When they visited the store to investigate, store management refused to cooperate and also declined to show the police video surveillance footage of the incident. These chemical attacks have apparently happened at multiple T.J. Maxx stores, reports the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis.
Brian DeRosier, Oak Park Heights police chief and emergency manager, said he has no problem with stores keeping law enforcement officers out of the loop over an everyday shoplifting incident, but that when people are doused with an unknown chemical in a public place and it goes unreported, that's a different story, the paper said. "I'm not about to comment on whether or not what they did was legal or not legal," he said. "It's not a smart idea. Let's just leave it at that."
DeRosier added that the store's prior knowledge of this type of incident at other stores "would be even more reason to call for assistance and provide a description at that time." He called the store's failure to provide information that could lead to the arrest of a suspect, and possibly prevent similar incidents elsewhere, "an unprofessional and irresponsible response by the retailer" that exposes customers to further danger.
Police were told that a male believed to have stolen something from the store took a container from his waist as he was leaving and turned to spray it inside the store as he fled, the newspaper report said. The store manager told police that the surveillance video was to be forwarded to the company's district security office on Thursday. When police contacted Sherry Hiltner, the company's district loss prevention manager, she refused to share the video or any other information about the incident, saying the company was doing its own investigation.
TJX eventually relented and provided the security footage—and other information—to police.
Doreen Thompson, vice president for corporate communications at TJX, said: "We have protocols in place that stores need to follow when certain types of incidents occur, and our store followed those protocols before releasing our video surveillance footage. While it took a bit longer than we would have liked, at this time, we have provided the video footage to local police for their investigation. As this is a police matter, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further." Love that last line. Sure wouldn't want to impede a police probe by commenting. Withholding evidence, that's cool, but commenting on why you did it would certainly help the shoplifting suspect immensely.
- See the Star-Tribune story