Call it a sign of the times.
A financially destressed mother and her two adult children were charged with stealing about $5,000 worth of goods from the over the past several months, police said Thursday.
Darlene McDonald, 54, her daughter, Harlianne Blanchard, 35, and her son, Stephen Blanchard, 32, all of Willowpenn Drive in Upper Southampton, were arrested in late September and charged with several crimes after Giant’s loss prevention department notified township police of the thefts.
Detective Craig Rudisill said, the “merchandise pass-off” scheme worked like this: Darlene, who worked as a cashier at the Giant, would have her two children check-out in the line she was manning. Instead of scanning the products Darlene would place them directly into the bagging area, which meant her children would receive free merchandise.
Store security caught onto the scheme and police arrested the family in late September, but not before the trio took nearly $5,000 worth of “everyday” grocery items, Rudisill said.
An investigation revealed the three had stolen from the store, using the “merchandise pass-off” scheme, 16 times since June of this year.
Their motivation? Hard financial times, Rudisill told Patch.
According to a Food Marketing Institute study, three-quarters of grocery stores said theft-related loss increased in the months following the downturn of the economy.
In the study, a group of loss prevention executives said they believe the economic pressures are the reason behind the increase in food-realted thefts.
The study surmised that the increase in grocery thefts draws a “direct parallel to the rise in burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and car break-ins as reported by media outlets around the nation.”
When asked for comment about the Southampton Giant theft and grocery theft as a whole, Giant spokesman Chris Brand said, “To ensure the safety of our associates and customers, we do not disclose security procedures or policies.”
Darlene McDonald, Harlianne Blanchard, and Stephen Blanchard have all been charged with various related crimes, including retail theft, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.
According to court documents, the trio, who share the same Willowpenn Drive address, are out of jail on $20,000 unsecured bail.