Employee stops thief, but gets fired

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Kayla Bunge
Friday, April 4, 2008
— Dean Babcock said he just wanted to do the right thing, but it cost him his job.

He was fired from Target on March 25, he said, for stopping a 16-year-old girl from stealing alcohol. He said his manager told him he’d violated company policy.

According to Babcock:

On March 1, a 16-year-old girl went to the alcohol aisle and took a bottle of Captain Morgan rum. She put the bottle into her bag.

He verified the incident on store security cameras.

On March 7, the same 16-year-old girl again went to the alcohol aisle and took a bottle of Patron tequila. She put the bottle in her shopping basket.

He again verified the incident on store security cameras.

Babcock approached the girl just a few aisles away from where she had taken the tequila. He asked her if she had taken a bottle of rum the week before. She said yes. He asked her if she had taken a bottle of liquor that day. She said yes.

Babcock saw that the bottle no longer was in the girl’s shopping basket. He asked her if it was in her bag. She opened it up, and he saw that it was.

Babcock took the girl’s information, called her father to tell him what had happened and let her go.

“I couldn’t call the police, and I thought I could handle it low key, without the bosses finding out,” Babcock said.

On March 21, the store manager called Babcock into her office and asked him what happened.

“(She) said, ‘You weren’t supposed to do that,’” he said.

Babcock told her he understood that, but he wasn’t going to let a 16-year-old girl steal alcohol from the store.

The manager said that he had violated Target’s policy.

Babcock said the manager told him he should have approached the girl and asked if he could help her find something. Only certain supervisors can stop suspected shoplifters. Babcock was not a supervisor; he was a security guard.

“I could not ask her to put the alcohol back,” he said. “I could not accuse a guest of stealing.”

Babcock said the store didn’t have anyone on duty with the authority to stop a suspected shoplifter that day.

He was suspended for a few days.

On March 25, Babcock was fired.

“I figured they were going to chew me out, but I didn’t think I’d get fired,” he said.

According to a statement from Target, safety is the company's first priority.

"Target does not condone underage drinking or theft...and we maintain appropriate procedures and implement many safeguards to prevent their occurence," according to the statement.

"While we take theft seriously, we also respect and value the comfort of our guests," the statement said. "To ensure a safe shopping experience while preventing crime in our stores, we require that our apprehension guidelines be upheld and apprehensions be made only when a situation meets our stringent criteria.

Babcock said he doesn’t regret what he did.

“My job was not to stop her. I knew that when I was hired,” he said. “But I think any reasonable adult who sees a kid take a bottle of alcohol would do something about it.”

Babcock doesn’t deny violating Target’s policy, but he has an objection to the policy and wants the company to change it.

Last updated: 9:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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