Thefts from shops

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1a) Theft from shops advice booklet
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Click here to download our advice booklet. 

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1b) How secure is your shop?
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Secure store tips shoplifting crime prevention

1. Meet and greet 

Shoplifters can always assess how easy it is to steal from a shop by how soon after they enter they are spoken to by a member of staff. It’s known as ‘the three-to-five second rule’.

Greeting customers as they enter your premises can put off shoplifters because it sends out a message that you and your staff are paying attention. If a thief thinks they've been spotted they're more likely to leave.

2. Crime mapping 

Work out where inside the store thefts are happening. Keep records of location, dates, times and CCTV of incidents or suspicious behaviour. This is called ‘crime mapping’.

Take a look at this area as if you are seeing it for the first time, then work out what you can do to protect it. Can you improve the surveillance? For example, can you see it from the till? Try making the area more visible by repositioning or lowering stock and shelving. Consider placing more staff here or even displaying the items elsewhere.

3. Electronic tagging

Tag your items with ‘Electronic Article Surveillance’. Anti-theft systems encompass a wide range of devices and technologies.

A correctly installed and security accredited anti-theft terminal (and tagging system) at a store entrance is a statement to potential shoplifters that ‘this store is protected’. Thieves will often target premises that don’t have this equipment. Most shops see a marked drop in shoplifting once they instal an anti-theft terminal on the door. They’ll simply go elsewhere.

4. Keep it tidy

A clean and tidy retail outlet with clear visibility across the shop floor tells a thief that everything is shipshape – and that surveillance is also probably first class. Keep things security friendly, with uncluttered, wide aisles where possible, thereby making it extremely difficult for them to steal unnoticed. Ensure that the exterior, the grounds and the building itself are also well maintained and clean, to keep the space as visible as possible.

5. Personal safety

You can't predict who’s coming into your shop or how they will behave. Shoplifters could respond aggressively when challenged.

Employers should conduct a risk assessment in conjunction with Health and Safety directionsExternal Link. Always trust your instincts and only engage a potential shoplifter if it is safe to do so. If you feel confident with the situation, keep a safe distance and then ask them if they need any help or if they require a basket or a bag. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, be polite, step away and quietly alert your manager or security team.

6. Safety in numbers

For as much of the day as possible, try not to be alone. Thieves target stores where there is only one member of staff. More eyes in the store, means you’re more likely to spot a thief, so have a few members of staff and make sure they’re trained in how to spot shoplifters. For more guidance, see the below heading "Could you spot a shoplifter?"

Credit: Cheshire Police

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1c) Could you spot a shoplifter?
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So what do you think a shoplifter looks like? They’re not exactly what you’d expect. They’re extremely good at blending in with shoppers, but you might be able to spot a shoplifter by their behaviour. Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for.

They’re smart. Be smarter

Many shoplifters dress smartly and will often speak to you, joke with you and engage with you. They don’t always work alone and they may try to relax or distract you while an accomplice steals. They’re good at creating diversions, especially when you’ve unlocked a cabinet. Don’t fall for it. Get one of your staff to assist you.

A key part of dealing with shoplifters is by having strong security such as a member of staff near any doors; by knowing your clientele; by encouraging staff to remain alert; and by intelligent use of security devices.

How to spot a shoplifter

There are a number of tell-tale signs that flag up a shoplifter. But remember, while the following don't necessarily mean the person is guilty – and be aware that you are responsible for your behaviour, both legally and commercially – we recommend that you keep an eye on shoppers who:

  • seem to be watching you and the staff rather than shopping and may be waiting for the right moment to steal an item
  • Seem to want to keep your attention and talk for the sake of it – possibly because an accomplice is elsewhere stealing
  • look like they’re taking little notice of your products
  • seem a little nervous and possibly pick up random items with little interest
  • keep refusing your offer of help or assistance
  • frequently enter your store and never make a purchase
  • want you to unlock and open cabinets but don’t buy anything

What to do if you see a shoplifter in action

If you see them take something then ask them politely to put the item back but be careful to keep your tone neutral and back off if you feel threatened. Always be sure they’ve taken something before you speak to them – and only if you feel it’s safe to do so.

Once you're sure that they are indeed a shoplifter, call 999.

Credit: Cheshire Police

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2a) Online Reporting
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report retail theft landing

You can report thefts using our online form here

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2b) When to report online
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You should report online if:

  • A theft has already taken place
  • There is no immediate danger to staff or members of the public
  • The offender has left the scene
  • No threats have been made and no damage has been caused to property

This could include:

  • When you have reviewed CCTV and discovered theft of stock
  • If a person has left the store with stock and there are no aggravating factors
  • Security or staff have disrupted or deterred a person attempting to steal stock
  • Police attendance will not be sufficient to apprehend
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3) When to call 999
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  • you or someone else is in immediate danger
  • if the crime is in progress and you believe that intervention will have an adverse effect
  • you need police help immediately.

This could include:

  • someone using violence or threatening violence
  • if there is a danger to life
  • serious damage is being or could be caused to property or stock
  • a shoplifter has been disturbed or stopped and there are aggravating factors which would require police attendance.
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4) When to call 101
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You should call 101 if:

  • Report a theft hat has already happened
  • You need to seek advice
  • If you have a detained shoplifter
  • You do no require an immediate police response

This could include:

  • If you have any questions when reporting online
  • When you have a complaint detained shoplifter and you wish to seek advice on whether police attendance is necessary
  • If you need to confirm details of detained shoplifter
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5) Additional ways to contact the police
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  • Our mini-com number for the hard of hearing is 01473 611160.
  • Our textphone number is 18001 101.
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6) Retailer guide to security
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To request a copy please email Lucy Mures - [email protected]

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7) Retailer’s requirements
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To request a copy please email Lucy Mures - [email protected]