Accused shoplifter causes Kmart ruckus

By Ashley Luthern


A 27-year-old Youngstown woman will appear in court today to answer to charges stemming from a shoplifting that ended with a store employee taking a knee to the groin.

Tavia M. Sinkfield is charged with assault, obstructing official business, child endangering and two counts of robbery, and is set for arraignment today in Mahoning County Area Court here. She also was issued a citation for marijuana possession.

Sinkfield is accused of trying to shoplift about $90 worth of clothing from Kmart on U.S. Route 224 on Thursday.

Store employees told police Sinkfield took items into the fitting room with her 4-year-old son, and once she exited, her purse looked bigger, and employees allege they later saw her hide a pair of jeans in her coat, according to reports.

When Sinkfield did not pay for the items, two store employees asked her to stop and then said she rammed her shopping cart into a 77-year-old woman in front of her in her attempt to leave, police said.

She then kneed one of the store employees in the groin after the employee approached her. She punched a second approaching employee, who tried to grab her coat, in the mouth, reports stated.

The female customer and two employees declined medical treatment, police said.

Sinkfield was charged with obstructing official business after giving police the wrong name, records show. She was issued the drug citation after officers found suspected marijuana in her purse.

Boardman police Capt. Donald Hawkins said the number of shoplifting cases has spiked this holiday season.

From Nov. 21 to Dec. 3, Boardman police charged 21 people, including juveniles, with theft relating to shoplifting cases.

Police took an additional four shoplifting incident reports from township retailers.

“It’s tying the detective division up. The major stores ... have their own loss-prevention officers who help make arrests. Smaller stores don’t,” Hawkins said.

Shoplifting usually results in a mis- demeanor theft charge, but if the value of stolen merchandise is more than $1,000, it becomes a felony.

If force is used in a theft, no matter the value of merchandise, it usually is charged as a robbery, Hawkins said.

A robbery charge “almost always happens when [shoplifters] have been confronted, and someone tries to apprehend them,” Hawkins said.

During a shoplifting arrest, patrol officers go the retailer, file paperwork and if applicable, officers will make an arrest, drive to the township police station for booking and then take suspects to Mahoning County jail in Youngstown.

“You can only imagine the time if we have a lot of these cases,” Hawkins said.

“... These cases are caused by two things: poverty and usually drug addiction.”

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