MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) A recent increase in supermarket shoplifting isn’t unique to West Texas, and both economic and law enforcement experts believe the recent record-breaking inflation is the main reason behind it.

“There has been an increase in some theft. (There’s been) a lot of first-time people with the shoplifting,” said Brian Helmers, a manager at the Midland Market Street grocery store.

Helmers also says that the first-time shoplifters lead him to believe that tough times and rising prices are pushing West Texans to break the law in order to eat. He also says that Market Street stores across the Lone Star State have responded by increasing theft-prevention measures.

“We have shut down some of our exit locations during a specific time and only kept our primary location at the front open,” said Helmers. 

A representative for the Ector County Sheriff’s Office says that they’ve also noticed an increase in local thefts, but they want to make things clear. They say there are multiple, legal ways to get a meal and feed your family without breaking the law.

“You don’t want to go to jail over wanting to eat, and there are so many organizations that are here just for that purpose, to make sure that you don’t go hungry. They are here so that you don’t feel bad or feel embarrassed. They want your kids to eat, and they want you to eat,” said Shirley Hardee with the Ector County Sheriff’s Office.

That message was seconded by multiple supermarket shoppers who spoke to ABC Big 2 News.

“Midland is a really giving community and there are a lot of people who would love to help out people who have fallen on their luck. The West Texas Food Bank, I know is one of them,” said Midland shopper Kevin Nelson.