Portland area Target employee shares frustrations, dangers of working in crime-ridden store

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – For the past five months, FOX 12 has sought to interview leaders of some big box stores overwhelmed with theft and crime in the Portland area, but one after one, they all turned down interviews.

The corporations also declined to let their loss-prevention mangers address burgeoning shoplifting and organized retail crime, something that employees and retail associations consider to be an overwhelming problem.

But FOX 12 met a woman who works at a local Target who was willing to share her experience on the job. FOX 12 is not revealing her name or identity because she’s not allowed to speak on behalf of Target. Nevertheless, she offered valuable insight at what big-box employees are up against and why it’s so hard to stop thieves.

“We will have people who will fill up backpacks, suitcases, wagons, and just walk out the door,” the employee said. “Some guests will do a smash and grab. They take a hammer, or sledgehammer of some sort and smash the glass doors that are protecting the electronics and grab what they can and walk out.”

RELATED: Retail crimes soar in Portland, businesses unhappy with local governments

Since the pandemic, the woman said theft has exploded and becomes particularly bad during closing time.

“I know if we touch a cart that someone’s walking out with, we are automatically on final warning and so next time we do it, we lose our job,” she said. “No matter what, Target is there to protect us and they don’t want anything to happen to us.”

The woman told FOX 12 she understands Target’s safety policy, but she says so do thieves who in turn, feel invincible.

“It’s frustrating,” the employee said. “As a whole, I’ve talked to a lot of people, especially in my department, about how frustrating it is — how upsetting it is — we are working so hard to make everyone’s experience there enjoyable and then we have people walk out and we have guests who are shocked that we can’t do anything.”

Frustrating on one front – but the employees said what’s truly scary is the increasing boldness of the crimes.

“We’ve had some people come in with weapons and that’s when it feels dangerous,” the Target employee said.

“We had a guy a couple weeks ago, he showed up after we’d closed the doors and he had a big knife, looked like about a 12-inch knife and I don’t know where he went, if he was waiting out there,” she added.

The employee said safety is something she is constantly weighing against everything she loves about working at Target: her co-workers and the otherwise fun atmosphere.

FOX 12 asked her if her family worries about the employee working at Target.

“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “My step-mother has flat out told me she worries and that she wishes I didn’t have to work there, because of everything that goes on.”

FOX 12 reached out to Target for comment on this story. Spokesman Brian Harper-Tibaldo sent along the following statement:

“Safety is Target’s highest priority, and in response to elevated incidents of theft in the Portland area, we’ve taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of our team and guests. This includes hiring more security team members, installing more security cameras and using a third party to provide additional security in select stores. We invest time and resources in our store leaders and security team members so they can protect themselves and de-escalate potential safety issues. We also work directly with law enforcement on an ongoing basis to address organized retail crime.”

Target’s Portland store off of NE Halsey Street is one of the retailers top loss locations in the country.

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