ILION – Have you noticed the prevalence of baby formula theft cases making the news?
It is a problem police and retailers have been battling for years locally and nationally.
Most recently, a trio hit Babies R Us in New Hartford last month, making off with approximately 35 cans of formula over a four-day period. With formula costing anywhere from $14 to $30 per can, that is a hefty loss.
Many stores have turned to keeping formula behind sales counters or under lock and key to deter thieves, but not all.
Why baby formula?
“Baby formula is a popular item to steal for a number of reasons,” said Sergeant Chad Barnes of the Ilion Police Department. “People steal it to resell on the street, and it’s also used as a cutting agent for drugs like cocaine.”
According to Barnes, baby formula can be found and purchased literally on the street by so-called black market dealers. Another popular outlet of illicit formula is craigslist, he said. A quick search of the web site revealed dozens of results for baby formula.
“It’s sort-of a win-win for these people,” Barnes said. ” The thieves are making a quick $10-$20, and those in need of the formula are getting it $5 to $10 cheaper than they would at a store.”
Barnes and the Ilion Police Department have dealt with their share of formula theft cases at local retailers, and have been fortunate enough to find, arrest and charge two different suspects involved.
Unfortunately, the theft and illegal sale of formula often proves so lucrative, many thieves keep at it despite being caught and charged, Barnes said.
“These guys are playing the system,” he said. “They know that the court system is so back logged, even if they are caught and charged a number of times, most likely, all the charges will be scooped together into one plea deal. They’ll pay one fine for them all and be back at it.”