Many years ago as a child I witnessed shoplifting in action at a supermarket on Auckland’s North Shore. Even at a young age I picked up the body language of some kids and watched them discretely as they placed items inside their clothing. Despite adults being in the vicinity no-one was even aware what was going on and when I approached the customer service desk to advise what I had witnessed no-one was prepared to act as the thieves decamped unimpeded.
25 years on it is still evident to me that shoplifting is caused by slack shop and customer management and can therefore be remedied.
In my experience shoplifters generally come in two forms; the opportunist who is doing it for the thrill and the organised shoplifters who more often than not are foreigners working in teams and are only in the area for a short time.
Both can be put off or apprehended by taking some relatively cost effective and simple measures.
The average shoplifter can be spotted a mile away and therefore intercepted before any losses occur. Ideally your store will have closed circuit surveillance with one camera covering the entrance to the store with a clear enough view to get an identifying image of any customers and would-be robbers. You will also have cameras watching all desirable product, especially small items. A monitor should be placed in such a position that customers can see themselves and therefore are aware they are being watched and recorded. Cameras alone will not deter theft.
The opportunist shoplifter will nearly always loiter and be uncertain of their actions. They will take a long time to decide what and how they are going to steal. You should be able to pick their body language and approach them in the usual manner. Do not be put off if they decline your help; engage them in conversation or subtly let them know that you are not going to leave them alone with enough time to steal. If you are right, they will make their way out of the store and rethink their plan, either moving on to another store or canning the idea altogether.
Of course bags are an issue and security guards at large stores are often fooled by hidden pockets and compartments in bags where items can be concealed. The idea is to stop them before the items make their way into the bag.
Organised shoplifters often work in pairs or teams with one party distracting the staff member and the other committing the theft. This usually occurs with high value product such as jewellery, sunglasses, electronic items or perfumes therefore justifying locking up certain items in glass cases. Only bring out one item at a time for handling. I was recently at a store in Newmarket looking at i-pods and the staff member there got it right. He made a point of locking up one i-pod before going to the next cabinet. “Trust no one”.
• Don’t make the mistake of thinking that some losses through theft are inevitable. If an offender steals from you successfully they will be back for more and they may tell their friends. Before you know it your losses are extreme. No theft is acceptable.
• Dummy cameras only fool dummies. I can pick them from real cameras therefore so can any criminals.
• If you are an EMA member; call or email me; mention this article and I will provide you with a free no hassle consultation to assist you with your store or business security.
Rod Moratti is the principal at Moratti & Associates, Licensed Investigators since 1989. Feel free to contact Rod on 027-6958863 at any time or email