FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Sheriff's Office arrested five shoplifters last Friday as part of a crackdown that will continue through the Christmas season.

The sheriff's office Special Enforcement Team launched "Operation Safe Shopping" last week, Beth Utley, a spokeswoman for the office, said in a news release. The operation is designed to catch shoplifters and reduce the losses they inflict on local stores.

The operation led to eight arrests last week.

Six were for shoplifting, Utley said. Four of the suspected shoplifters were juveniles.

The sheriff is assigning undercover deputies to stores throughout the county to look for shoplifters. There are also deputies in the surveillance rooms of certain stores.

The increased enforcement will last through Christmas. Farmington and surrounding areas see an uptick in shoplifting during the holiday shopping season, the sheriff's office said.

"We are there on asset protection,' roving inside stores," Sgt. Alan Jamison said in a statement. "The idea is for us to be able to not only catch someone shoplifting, but to also get them on video in order to prosecute them."

In addition to undercover deputies, there will also be marked police cars and uniformed deputies and reserve deputies walking in and near stores, Jamison said.

"We want the bad guys to know we are there, and hopefully deter them," he said.

Retail associations say theft is a chronic, year-round problem that increases around Christmas because of the increase in shoppers.


"When you have more people in stores there are more shoplifters in stores," said Barbara Staib, director of communications for the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.

Staib said surveys show that one of 11 Americans are shoplifters.

"Shoplifting gets a lot of attention this time of year but it doesn't go away Jan. 1," she said. "They are issues we deal with year round."