ASHLAND — Police are warning downtown business owners to watch out for dine-and-dash incidents and other thefts, because several have been reported in recent days.

ASHLAND — Police are warning downtown business owners to watch out for dine-and-dash incidents and other thefts, because several have been reported in recent days.

It's not unusual for thefts to increase this time of year, when downtown streets become more crowded with pedestrians due to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, said Officer Teri DeSilva with the Ashland Police Department.

"It seems like in the spring, it picks up," she said. "The word needs to get out — it's not right. We have to pay for our meals and our clothes."

DeSilva cited two teen girls who were on a trip to Ashland for third-degree theft Thursday afternoon.

The girls, ages 17 and 18, allegedly stole less than $100 worth of apparel — including flip flops, a bikini and a tank top — from three downtown stores earlier that day, she said.

"I took them back to the stores and made them give the merchandise back," DeSilva said.

While she was looking for the girls Thursday, DeSilva warned business owners about the recent increase in theft cases, which include several instances of people leaving restaurants without paying for their meals, she said.

On Wednesday, three boys ate at the Golden Dynasty restaurant, 1415 Siskiyou Blvd., and left without paying for their food, according to a police report.

Pasta Piatti, 358 E. Main St., has seen three instances of dining-and-dashing in the past week, DeSilva said.

"It seems like four in a matter of a week is quite a bit," she said.

It's possible there have been more incidents recently that have gone unreported, DeSilva said.

"Just from my own experience with dining-and-dashing cases, I don't know how many restaurants report them," she said.

Officers recommend restaurants and other stores report thefts, so they can work to apprehend the thieves and warn other businesses, DeSilva said.

"We can't consider the crimes unless we know about them," she said.

Sometimes teens traveling with school groups are responsible for the thefts, DeSilva said.

"When we do get people from out of town, they have no ownership of our city or community and I think that makes them more courageous to steal," she said. "Also, a lot of them are without parents, sometimes for the first time."

Anyone with information on the recent thefts is asked to contact the Ashland Police Department at 482-5211.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-482-3456 ext. 226, or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

Correction: A word has been changed in the headline of this story. The original version made an incorrect reference to a source.