"Beer Runs" More Than A Nuisance To Convenience Stores

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RENO, NV - They're called "beer runs." Grab and go beer thefts, usually by minors. It's a growing problem and convenience store operators say police are doing little about it.

A month ago two teenagers ripped off three stores in Sun Valley, walking in, grabbing 12 or 18 packs under their arms and leaving.

KOLO 8 News broadcast surveillance video. The owner posted photos in his store and offered a reward.
That prompted a call to Secret Witness.

The pair were arrested. One of them is a minor. The other is 18 and now facing a felony burglary charge, but convenience store operators say that's usually not the outcome.

In fact, these thieves, almost always minors, usually go unpunished. Store operators say it seems as if they are the only ones taking this crime seriously.

A 12 or 18 pack here or there doesn't sound like much, but these thefts are becoming very common and it adds up. Jim Linscott, who operates two Shop 'n Go markets figures the total cost for all the stores in the area may be as high as $20 to $25 thousand a year.

That's not the only concern, however. "People can get hurt," he says, "These kids grab some beer and tear out of here."

He says he's also had a thief pull a gun on a clerk who followed him out of the store.

"It's the same as if they steal some tools from your garage," adds Miller. "If I build a store in a neighborhood, I'm a member of that neighborhood. I don't want this going on around us."

It's not as if police wouldn't have much to go on, In many of these cases the store operators are not only providing them with good security camera video. They are often providing them with names and even addresses.

Miller's become something of an amateur sleuth, but he says it doesn't take much to identify the culprits. He networks with people in a neighborhood or local schools.

"I'm not a lawyer. I don't know what you need to make a case, but it would seem that's enough to prosecute."

Miller has files on all the cases in his stores. In every one, he's identified the thief, but he says when he calls police, he gets little response.

That's all the more frustrating because for years police have been carrying out sting operations trying to catch stores selling alcohol to minors.

Miller and other members of the Responsible Alcohol Retailers Association support those stings. In fact, some of them hold their own stings to test their employees.

They'd just like to see the same emphasis on catching the thieves.

"What's the bottom line? Is the bottom line catching us selling alcohol to minors or is it keeping kids from getting alcohol. We think it should be keeping kids from getting alcohol."