FRESNO, Calif. --A couple of suspected shoplifters were caught on camera assaulting a JCPenney employee who tried to stop them. Fresno police say this type of crime is on the rise and Prop 47 is making it tough to keep small-time thieves off the street.
Surveillance cameras captured a struggle inside the Fashion Fair Mall where fists were flying, clothes were knocked off the racks and the violence, police say, turned a petty theft into a robbery. Sgt. Mark Hudson said, "At that point, they use force or fear to commit a robbery to try to get away from loss prevention employees with the items that they've stolen."
It started in the Sephora section of the J.C. Penney store. Two women appeared to be looking at make-up. The cameras followed one of them testing products, walking away and slipping them into her purse. After several minutes, she walks away with a little boy by her side and a baby in a stroller.
Dave Calhoon, who shops in Fresno said, "It's disturbing, someone is out with their family-- to think they're using their family as a kind of a tool or a key to be a little bit more discreet about shoplifting."
Employees caught up with the women near the exit. One was punched from behind and bit, according to police-- all for roughly $200 worth of makeup. Sgt. Hudson says it's one of three separate robberies from last week where employees were threatened-- even worse, he says, this type of crime is up 42 percent from last year and he blames Prop 47. "Now, with prop 47 being the law, we're not able to arrest people for burglary," Sgt. Hudson said.
Calhoon added, "One does it, gets away...others do it, they get away...I mean you're seeing it more and more."
The women from J.C. Penney got away but their faces were caught on camera. As for the employee who was hurt, police say his injuries were minor.