Man uses ‘Bert’ to help teach shoplifter a lesson

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By Molly Haines

Owen County native Andrew Perry made worldwide news recently while in Charlottesville, Va., as owner of a Halloween Express store.

It started when a teenager came in and began browsing the store. “He came in and picked up a pair of fangs,” Perry said. “Once he slipped off to the side of the store, he slipped them in his pocket. Virginia’s different from Kentucky; as soon as you try to hide something, even if you’re still in the store, you’ve stolen the merchandise.”

Perry said the teen continued to look around the store briefly before walking outside.

“I followed him outside and told him I wanted him to give me what he had stolen from my store,” Perry said. “He kept saying he hadn’t taken anything and I told him I had taken a picture of his license plate and that the cops were on the way so he shouldn’t think about going anywhere. He finally admitted that he had taken the fangs and wanted me to let him back in the store so he could pay for them. I told him he wasn’t going back into my store.”

Once the cops arrived, Perry said he decided he would press charges, but quickly changed his mind.

“I told the cops I wouldn’t press charges if they could get the kid to stand in front of my store holding a sign that said ‘I got caught shoplifting at Halloween Express.’ They said they couldn’t make him do that, but I could present the idea to him myself.”

The teen agreed to stand outside the store and hold the sign and Perry was kind enough to give him a costume to conceal his identity — a costume of Sesame Street’s “Bert.”

“I just walked in the store and I guess the first thing I saw was a Bert costume,” Perry said. “He stood outside of the store for six hours wearing the Burt costume and holding the sign.”

Perry said he might not have chosen to be so kind to the young man had he not been a teen.

“At 18 you’re just starting your life,” Perry said. “A shoplifting charge could really mess things up for you when you’re young and trying to find a job. I just didn’t want this kid’s life to be ruined at such a young age.”

Perry said he had been interviewed by news organizations from across the United States.

“The big thing was that by not pressing charges against him, it didn’t cost the taxpayers any money,” Perry said.