Shoplifting: Stealing, Retail Establishment, Price Switching, Theft,
Criminal Conversion, Physical Safety, Security, LP Awareness /
Consultation / Training
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Shoplifting is the commonly used term to describe the act (by a non-employee) of removing
something from a retail establishment, during business hours, without
making payment for it. An even more common word, 'stealing,' is also
used to describe this act. In fact, there are no criminal statutes
known as 'shoplifting' or 'stealing'; they are simply terms used to
describe the act.
Shoplifting: A Part of Our Culture
Shoplifting is a well-entrenched cultural phenomena
as evidenced by the many slang terms used to describe the act that have
evolved thru time such as 'boost', 'rip-off', 'jack', 'clip',
'get-over', 'gank', 'pocket', 'swipe', and the truly descriptive 'five
The act of price switching, or intentionally altering
price tags or stickers on merchandise in an effort to pay an amount less
than what the owner is actually selling the item for, is another
extremely common form of shoplifting. Theft, petty theft and criminal
conversion are the most frequent legal terms applied to the act of
A variety of local and state laws cover the crime, and the
penalties for the offense vary based on the particular statute.
Pertinent factors for a case in which the suspect is eventually
prosecuted that should be documented include:
- Where the act takes place
- What item(s) were removed
- How the act was perpetrated
- Was anyone injured during
- Any mitigating circumstances
Shoplifting: Where is the Justice? or "How to Succeed in Prosecuting
a Shoplifter & Stay on the Right Side of the Law!"
In criminal court, for the Prosecuting Attorney's Office to prove that a theft or criminal
conversion has taken place, certain specific elements of the crime must
be established beyond a reasonable doubt during trial. If the case reaches court, a common defense is challenging the prosecution's efforts to
There are many variables to conducting the successful
apprehension of a suspected shoplifter. In many cases it is not
enough that an employee witnessed an individual conceal the item on
his person in the middle of the store. Store personnel responding to a shoplifting incident should be trained to comply with
company policy and still remain prepared for any response from the
If the suspect is injured during apprehension, if the court case is unsuccessful, or if
the suspect's rights were violated, the business could find itself in a
defendant's role against charges of false arrest, assault, battery,
defamation of character or any number of contentions by the 'victim' of
your well-intentioned staff. In fact, there are individuals who have
made a career out of intentionally acting suspiciously like shoplifters
in the hope they will be stopped improperly so they can bring suit
against the business that made the apprehension.
For more details on what is needed to obtain a successful shoplifting
prosecution and how to prevent claims against your business, read
Where is the Justice?
Shoplifting Case Studies
Even a seemingly 'good' shoplifting 'stop' can have disastrous consequences for your
business and people's lives. Here are two examples of how a lack of
loss prevention training can lead to tragic personal and expensive
Case Study # 1::
Case Study # 2:
Over-Aggressive Big Box Floorwalker
Shoplifting: Dealing with a Major Problem
Shoplifting (theft) is an enormous issue in the retail world that results in
hundreds of millions of dollars in loss each year. In addition,
companies spend tens of millions of dollars annually on Loss
Prevention Departments to deter shoplifters and provide Loss Prevention
personnel with tools to combat the issue.
In addition, each year
thousands of employees will be injured by a shoplifter directly or in
some other way as they are attempting to detain a shoplifter while at
work. Add the administrative expense
and lost productive time involved when a theft case is prosecuted and
payment of settlements when a case turns 'bad' and you get a true
picture of the overall cost of this crime.
Business has little choice
but to pass these expenses along to consumers with price increases.
Crime index statistics and business surveys conducted all reveal that
the problem is growing steadily with each passing year, despite the
expenditures to combat it noted above.
We examine the response alternatives
that a business might consider relative to the problem of
shoplifting. Each of the alternatives has positive and
negative ramifications, so it's important to thoroughly consider all
options and find a balanced approach that suits your business. Read
Shoplifting: Dealing with a Major Problem
for more details.
After reviewing both ‘extreme’ alternatives, hopefully you will be
better able to understand why, as stated earlier there is no single
best way of responding to the issue of shoplifting.
Shoplifting Policy Evaluation Criteria
Now we will examine the factors that should be evaluated when
attempting to find the optimal approach to fighting shoplifting in a
retail store environment. It is essential to identify the type of
retail business being evaluated and consider specific characteristics to
determine the most effective strategy to employ.
Some businesses are much
more likely to be targeted by shoplifters than others. It is important
to have an understanding of your store or business from that
perspective. The type of products sold is a primary factor in their
likelihood of being shoplifted. Merchandise that is universally needed,
desired or used is often stolen so it can be resold on the ‘street’.
For full details about what criteria to consider when evaluating
your shoplifting prevention policies, read
Design and Implementation of an Appropriate Shoplifting Policy
After evaluating the
factors described above it will be necessary to design and implement
your policy. It is
important that a retail business has a clearly defined written policy
regarding shoplifting. Many businesses post the shoplifting policy in
plain view of customers, much like a return policy. This serves as a
deterrent to some, but more importantly, it identifies the store’s
intentions clearly and can’t be questioned in court.
In the event a
shoplifter is apprehended by store employees, arrested by local law
enforcement and eventually prosecuted in criminal court, the written
policy serves as the company’s foundation for the actions taken. It is
also critically important that the shoplifting policy and its attentive
responsibilities, is explained to all employees of the business.
The ‘Shoplifting Policy’ should
not be a stand alone document, but rather a piece of an overall Loss
Prevention Program that has been designed specifically for your
business. A loss prevention professional with appropriate training,
experience and technological expertise should be utilized when designing
any Loss Prevention Program.
The actual components of
a specific Shoplifting Policy should be created from among the dozens
of available, proven strategies to fight the issue. These strategies have been
developed by retail loss prevention professionals over time, and proven
to be effective in reducing the incidence of shoplifting and improving
the outcome of prosecutions. For more details, and examples
of various components, read
Design & Implement an
Why Do People Shoplift?
To a Loss Prevention
professional with 25 years experience, the question ‘Why do people
shoplift?’ is actually humorous. Suffice to say, the motivations behind
shoplifting are as many and varied as the persons who perpetrate the
Without delving too deeply into psychology, its safe to
say that some shoplifters do so for a reason totally unrelated to
acquiring the item they are removing, while a
portion are full-time professionals who make a good living at it, until they are
caught, that is. They can be broken down into two distinct categories,
casual or amateur shoplifters and the professional or "lifestyle"
shoplifter. For information about the difference between them, and the
risks involved with each, read
Why Do People Shoplift?
Deterring The Shoplifter
conducted with convicted thieves reveal much about how to deter
shoplifters from causing losses in your store. It is imperative to
establish an environment in the store and among your employees that is
not casual, but alert and aware.
Stores that take pro-active measures to deter shoplifting and also have policies, personnel and/or equipment
in place to assist in apprehending shoplifters will be avoided by the
professionals and make casual, spontaneous shoplifters seriously
reconsider their impulses.
Shoplifting will never be completely
eliminated, but it can be deterred and decreased with appropriate effort
and professional loss prevention know-how.
For more information about Tony Jarana or how Summit Loss Prevention Consulting can help your organization, Call 317-363-8312 or send email to info@SummitLossPrevention.com.