Originally published on March 2, 2022 / Republished on Jan. 6, 2023

Theft and shoplifting in Billings are serious problems. Daily, I see on social media pages reports of stuff being stolen around town. Cars, tools, propane tanks, catalytic converters, bicycles, basically anything of value. It is happening in all parts of town and no neighborhood seems immune to the rise in property theft.

Thieves really piss me off. Not only does it suck that someone decided to help themselves to an item that you worked hard to purchase, but it also feels really violating. Numerous businesses around town are frequent targets for shoplifters, including the Ace Hardware stores. The Evergreen Ace responded in an epic way this week after a woman fled their store on foot with stolen merchandise.

Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

Leaving her car behind was a dumb idea.

Stealing is a dumb idea too, so let's not expect brilliance from the shoplifter. The woman dashed out of the hardware store (dropping a portion of her stolen goods in the process) and took off on foot. As you can see from the photos, the store responded quite cleverly by surrounding her car with pallets of soil. Each of the big white bags weighs hundreds of pounds and they are nearly impossible to move without a forklift.

The store just wants their stolen merchandise back.

I chatted with store owner Skip King on March 2, 2022 and he said they'll happily unblock the shoplifter's car if she brings their stuff back. King said they deal with shoplifting on a daily basis at his Ace Hardware stores in Montana and it's extremely frustrating, not to mention expensive. Police won't even touch the shoplifting cases, King said, leaving any type of recourse in the hands of store owners. King just spent $100,000 on new security cameras at the Evergreen Ace location, and they're not afraid to put shoplifters on blast. Occasionally, stolen merchandise is recovered.

Drugs are bad, mmkay?

King believes much of their thefts are because of drug addiction, a theory often reiterated by the Billings Police Department. If you don't want your face plastered all over social media - or your car blocked by giant bags of dirt - here's a piece of advice: Don't steal from Ace Hardware. Even better, don't steal. Period.

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