FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Antique stores in our area are seeing an increase in theft, but not from people taking things and leaving, instead thieves are swapping price tags on items.
On Tuesday (May 23), a woman walked into Belle Starr Antique Mall and switched the price tag on a bird cage stand, causing the store to lose more than $50 on just one item.
"She was in and out in rapid time," owner Beth Templeton said. "I believe she had probably come in prior to purchase, took a picture of the particular items' tag. When I was able to compare the tags directly next to each other, it was clear."
Now Belle Starr and other local shops are upping security with multiple surveillance cameras and a locker system. With the locker system, customers must leave their purses and bags at the front of the store in a locker while shopping.
"These are just measures that we have had to take to help protect our vendors' inventory, so little things don't slip out," Templeton said.
The thief caught on surveillance video on Tuesday brought in a price tag that was forged to look just like the ones you find in the store. Now, the owner is encouraging her vendors to use price tags that are harder to duplicate.
"A few different ways that we can try to be more preventative [are] each vendor can make their own tags or do something specific and distinguishing that can't be replicated as easy," Templeton said. "This is definitely helping to keep us at that next level of our security to protect our vendors."
For these stores, this type of tag switches is affecting more than just the shop's owners.
"It is never okay, regardless of if you are shopping at Walmart or at Belle Starr," Templeton said. "But, when you're shopping small, you're shopping local and you take something from a business like ours, you are literally taking it directly from an individual."
"It doesn't feel good at all," Linda Elsken, vendor at Remember When Antique Mall said. "We're on the road a lot, you have to go further and further to find things. You bring them home and clean it, sometimes you have to repair it. It's not a good feeling."
The Facebook post of the tag swapping woman is gaining attention on social media, putting the owner one step closer to identifying the thief. For now, vendors and shop owners have this message for thieves:
"Be careful when you come to our antique malls," Elsken said. "We're watching you."
To view the Belle Starr Antique Mall post, click here.
If you have any information about the woman who swapped the price tags, please contact Belle Starr Antique Mall or the River Valley Crime Stoppers at 78-CRIME.