NBC 12 investigates human hair thefts

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – You've heard about thieves targeting banks and jewelry stores, now they're after something that may surprise you; human hair!

Across the country, these hair thieves are breaking into salons and beauty stores making off with thousands of dollars worth of hair.

Beauty Store owner Heather Park says it is happening and it's a challenge to keep an eye on all her merchandise. She says she has to keep the most expensive hair behind the counter. Park owns Beauty Empire in Richmond. She says most everyone caught stealing in her store gives the same answer.

"I need this but I don't have the money. That's the main issue, because the economy is really bad now," she said.

Not everyone is taking the hair for a fancy hair-do, some crooks sell it online. Prices vary, but Park says quality hair can cost you upwards of $200 per pack. One of the most popular brands is Remy. The longer the hair, the more it will cost you.

Park says a big problem is security.

"We need to just stay with them but if we stay with them, then how do they feel? They feel like, why do they keep watching me," Park said.

Park has surveillance cameras but says it's not enough to stop thieves.She claims she has video which shows a woman stealing hair in her store. It's not just random customers, she once caught one of her favorite customers stealing.

"It is really sad because she was a really good customer and we had a really good relationship with her," Park said.

She reports the crimes but doesn't feel police respond quickly enough. We took her complaints to the Richmond Police Department.

Gray asked: "Lt. can you respond to the shop owners allegations that the police department is not there and when she calls there is no action. She says she feels helpless."

"Well, the response time or responding back to crime, we prioritize the way we get calls," said Lt. Mike Bender with the Richmond Police Department.

Lt. Bender admits officers can't make it to every call as quickly as they would like. He says so far, there have been four reports of theft at Park's store. He says half of the cases have resulted in arrests.

We also asked about the surveillance video Park showed us. Lt. Bender says officers checked into it, and the license plate didn't come back on file and didn't come back to the vehicle described.

Richmond police say this year they've only had a handful of reported cases about stolen hair, valued at about $200. Park is convinced that many stores just don't report the thefts. She says she's losing thousands of dollars monthly.

Until she can increase security, she has another plan she hopes will decrease the hair thefts. She says each time someone is caught on surveillance stealing, she will print out a picture and post it on the door.

Police say one simple tip for store owners is to clear clutter from in front of their stores, so officers can see what's going on inside when they are patrolling the area.

We checked with other police departments in the area. Henrcio reports three hair thefts in the last several months. Chesterfield says it has had no reports of hair thefts.

Next month, the Richmond Police Department will hold a Business Watch Forum to discuss robbery prevention. It takes place Monday, November 14th, from 6-8 p.m. at the Richmond Police Training Academy. It's located at 1202 West Graham Road. RSVP by November 9th. For more information, contact Officer Alice Snell at 646-5061.

Ccopyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.