ShoplifterHuman nature may at times be baffling, cruel, and often humorous. As a street cop, later a homicide detective, I never ceased to be amazed and amused.

For a period of time, I held down a position off-duty as a store detective apprehending shoplifters for the IGA supermarket chain. Thieves, not being the brightest ware on the silverware aisle, were surprisingly easy to spot.

The too-casual sort ambled up and down the floor squeezing the produce. A few cheap items made it to their carts, expensive selections vanished into their clothing. Then, even more casually, they would park the cart near the front of the store while they attempted to disappear into the parking lot. And would have, except for me.

Runners were considerably more obvious. Usually young males, they knew exactly what they wanted to steal when they walked in. They headed directly for their target, snatched it and sprinted for the door, depending on speed and agility to escape.

Except I was a long-distance competition runner. I chased one 19-year-old suspect for a mile, gaining on him while he kept looking back over his shoulder in consternation. As soon as I was near enough, I booted him square in the butt. By the time he got back up he was wearing handcuffs.

Professionals come prepared. A woman wearing a voluminous skirt and a long blouse gained about thirty pounds during her shopping spree stuffing items into oversized bloomers underneath her skirt. I put her on Weight Watchers.

A man with baggy Levis lost his dignity when the extra weight of merchandise concealed in his jeans dropped his drawers to his knees just as he reached the door. The next thing he heard was me laughing and saying, “Bud, you’re under arrest.”

Impulsive shoplifters are often befuddled, bemused, and penitent. I watched a fat woman stuff a gallon of ice cream up her skirt and between her thighs, then waddle out of the store into hot July sunshine. With me only a step behind.

Naturally, she denied the theft. And I couldn’t body search a female. So, I employed polite conversation for the next quarter-hour until chocolate pecan evidence began melting and running down her legs to puddle on the sidewalk.

If a person is legitimately down-and-out and hungry, I have sometimes bought him something to eat. But if he or she is merely too worthless, lazy, or doped-up to work, or had simply rather steal, then, melted ice cream or not, it’s off to the barred-window hotel. With me often chuckling all the way.

Recent book releases by Charles W. Sasser

BLOOD IN THE HILLS, by Bob Maras and Charles W. Sasser (nonfiction, Vietnam War)

SIX: BLOOD BROTHERS, by Charles W. Sasser (fiction. Adaptation of History Channel’s popular Navy SEAL action-adventure miniseries. Book I)

SIX: END GAME, by Charles W. Sasser (fiction, Adaptation of History Channel’s popular Navy SEAL action-adventure miniseries. Book II)

NIGHT FIGHTER, by Navy Captain Bill Hamilton and Charles W. Sasser (nonfiction. True story of the founder of Navy SEAL Team Six, and his long career as fighter pilot, CIA agent, UDT diver, spy, and advisor to President Ronald Reagan)