All eyes turn towards the shop front as the familiar sound of the security alarm goes off near the door.

It is usually someone completely innocent, who is too close to the exit, or a staff member has accidentally left a security tag on an item.

Whether it is in a supermarket, department store or small local business, shoplifting is a common problem.

You might ask what this has to do with you? It affects every one of us — not just business owners but every consumer. Shoplifting and petrol theft are on the rise as interest rates, inflation and fuel
prices bite into family budgets.

A retail crime report has shown Australian shops lost more than $10.3 billion in the past four years from store theft.

More than 20,000 shoplifting offences occur in Victoria each year, taking up an extensive amount of police time and resources and costing retailers billions. This loss is ultimately passed on to consumers.

Women’s clothing is the most popular item for thieves in Victoria, followed by men’s clothing and cosmetics.

Shoplifting statistics:
• Eighty percent of thieves are repeat offenders. Most of them have a drug addiction.
• Most thefts occur between noon and 4pm,
• More than half of offenders caught by police are aged 15 to 25.
• Between 20 and 30 percent of thefts are committed by organised groups.
• In Australia, 41 percent of retailers’ loss stock is attributed to employee theft.
• Most stolen property is disposed of on eBay and at second-hand dealers and markets. Younger thieves generally keep the property for themselves.

Retail staff have the right to apprehend people they believe have committed a theft in their store.

Civil liability can, however, make apprehension of offenders problematic. Effective staff education can be pivotal in avoiding pitfalls, especially as they may relate to shop stealing and bag searches.

Staff members do not have a lawful right to forcibly search customers or their belongings i.e. bags.

Customers may, however, be asked to voluntarily open bags for inspection, especially if signs promoting this possibility are displayed.

Many stores have security staff and CCTV to deter people and offenders have more chance of being identified. Victoria Police have an iFACE identification system, an important investigative tool to identify possible offenders captured on CCTV.

Remember our Crime Stoppers slogan, ‘If you see something, say something’. Report all matters to ‘000’ or call Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 33 000.

The buck should stop with us all, to care about what is happening around us, as often the cost is passed on to everyone.

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