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Community Outreach - Shoplifting & Internal Theft Prevention

Put a Stop to Shoplifting:

  • Alert employees may be your best defense. Have them greet customers when they enter the store. Teach them to be attentive in a helping way. Make sure that all your employees are familiar with shoplifting laws in your state and establish procedures for them to follow if they suspect shoplifting.

  • Make sure you can see everything that goes on in your store. Keep counters low, no more then waist-high. Mount mirrors in corners so there are no blind spots.
    Make it hard to leave the store without paying. Place expensive items in the center of the store, away from any exits. Arrange counters and display tables so there's no direct route to the exit. Some stores put turnstiles at entrances so the only way to get out is through the checkout counter.

  • Arrange your displays so that missing items are easily noticed. Place small items in neat rows or patterns. If you must, fasten expensive merchandise to alarms.

  • Announce and observe a policy to prosecute shoplifters. The threat of being caught, questioned by police, put on trial, and maybe even put in jail may be enough to turn most shoplifters away.

Common Shoplifting Methods:

  • Bulky clothing used to hide merchandise:

    • Coats

    • Pants

    • Maternity outfits

  • Hiding places for merchandise:

    • Packages

    • Bags

    • Knapsacks

    • Purses

  • Special props include:

    • Hollowed-out books

    • Fake casts

    • Umbrellas

    • Even baby strollers.

What to Watch For:

  • Be aware of customers' hands, pockets, purses and handkerchiefs.

  • Notice open packages, purses, shopping bags, and backpacks.

  • Watch for customers who are nervous, have wandering eyes, or are loitering.

  • Watch groups of people, especially if one attempts to keep you distracted.

Employees are Not Exempt:

Some experts believe that businesses lose more to employee theft than to burglary, robbery, and shoplifting combined. Examine your management practices. Make your employees feel that they have a stake in your business.

Inventory Control

Unfortunately, there are many ways dishonest employees can cheat their employers. A cashier in a grocer store "accidentally" damages boxes and cans so she can buy them at reduced prices. A maintenance worker stashes office supplies like calculators and typewriters in trash bins. A stock clerk saves discarded customer receipts and uses them to show that stolen goods were "paid for."

Your best defense is frequent and thorough inventory control. Limit employees' access to stock and inventory records. Occasionally check trash bins. Conduct periodic, unexpected inventory checks so dishonest employees know they run the risk of being caught by surprise.

How Much Does Shoplifting Cost Businesses?

  • Businesses lose an estimated $16 billion each year to shoplifting.

  • Each family in the US spends $300 per year to subsidize what shoplifters steal.

  • Nearly 90% of the population has, during their lifetime, shoplifted.

  • There is a shoplifting theft every five seconds of every day.

  • Shoplifting accounts for 30% of all reported crime.

  • One third of all new businesses fail due to retail theft.

  • Adolescents account for nearly 50% of shoplifters, but they only steal one-third as much as adults.

  • Shoplifting accounts for 5 to 10 cents on each dollar spent in our retail economy.

For more on crime prevention, visit the following websites:

National Crime Prevention Council   and   Washington State Crime Prevention Association