Business Safety

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A shoplifter is a person who steals goods from a store while pretending to be a customer. Shoplifting can be done in one of two ways:

  1. By concealing an item and walking out of the store
  2. By keeping an item in plain view and walking out of the store

In either case, it means a financial loss to the businesses they target.

There are several types of behaviours that shoplifters will exhibit, and a variety of techniques they will use to carry out their crime. When honest customers shop, they will generally look at items, check the price and size, in an attempt to decide if they want, need, or can afford the item. Shoplifters don't generally exhibit this type of behaviour, instead of looking at the merchandise, they will look around for the store cameras and employees, in an attempt to avoid them. Some shoplifters will wear sunglasses inside the store to disguise the fact that they are not looking at items. If a shoplifter is offered service by an employee, they will generally give a vague answer like "just looking, thanks" in the hope that the employee will leave them alone to go about their business.

The following are techniques that shoplifters will use to steal merchandise:

Padding items: this method involves stuffing extra items into boxes or bags of items they intend to purchase. If the items are found by the cashier, the shoplifter generally claims that they didn't know the items were in there, and refuse to pay for them.

Using their children: some parents will use their children to get away with a crime. Parents may use their infant's stroller to conceal items. Merchandise can be easily tucked around or under the infant and covered with a blanket, or hidden in diaper bags or the folds of a folding canopy. Parents can also use small children to carry items out of a store, either by handing the merchandise to the child, or even directing the child to take the item and conceal it. If they are caught, the parent will scold the child, and claim that they had no idea that this was happening.

Hiding items: Merchandise can be hidden up the sleeve, in boots or socks, and even in underwear. Watch for customers that constantly fidget with their cuffs, and pull their hands all the way up in their sleeves, bend down to tie their shoe laces more than once, or repeatedly hitch their pants up or rearrange their dresses - these are signs that something isn't right. Customers with usually bulky or out-of-season clothing should also be watched. Some shoplifters also use a jacket draped over one shoulder to conceal their actions, and hide items in the sleeves.

Wearing it out: This is a favoured technique for clothing and shoes. Often the shoplifter will wear the item around the store for several minutes, before simply walking out with it. Usually they will first remove the price tags, or tuck them out of site.

Hiding in plain sight: this is a favoured technique for large or heavy items. By holding an old receipt in one hand, the shoplifter will walk out of the store as if the item has already been paid for. Another variation of this method is when the shoplifter brings empty bags usually hidden in a pocket, or full bags and packages into the store and when they feel they are not being watched, they will start filling them with merchandise. If they are stopped they will say that these items were bought from a different store. A variant of this method is to simply pick an (usually) expensive item, and to simply walk out. This method is favoured by professionals, because they are usually in and out of the store with their item in less than one minute, without anyone noticing.

Grab and Run: similar to the previous 2 methods, but this one involves very little skill, and is usually done with an accomplice who waits in a running car. The shoplifter will walk into the store, grab what they can carry, and run out again. These are the most dangerous types of theft, because they are usually carried out by desperate people, such as drug addicts.

Groups of children or teenagers: watch groups of children or teenagers especially carefully, because peer pressure can be a strong influence on normally law-abiding youths. Sometimes groups will loiter in front of a store, looking for the security measures and how attentive the staff is.

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Here are some things you can do to prevent shoplifting:

  • Make sure that your employees are trained at spotting and apprehending shoplifters.
  • Keep your store and the display shelves neat and organized, so that your employees can observe the customers and see if something has gone missing.
  • Eliminate blind spots by placing mirrors in the corners, and consider using electronic article surveillance systems or cameras to monitor your store and merchandise
  • Prevent grab-and-runs by keeping merchandize away from the exits, and design your layout so that all people entering and exiting the store must pass by security personnel or employees.
  • Keep expensive items in locked cases, and limit the number of items that employees remove at any one time for a customer, and ensure that they are replaced when the customer is finished.
  • Fitting rooms and restrooms should be watched at all times, and limit the number of items taken into a fitting room, and don't allow un-paid merchandise to be taken into the restrooms

Keep the cash register inaccessible to customers and monitored at all times.

Contact Us

Duncan/North Cowichan Community Policing & Crime Prevention Office
#3 - 149 Canada Avenue
Duncan BC V9L 1T4
Phone: 250-701-9145
Fax: 250-701-9147
Manager: 250-701-9146

Cowichan Bay Community Police & Crime Prevention Office
1721 E Cowichan Bay Road
Cowichan Bay BC
Phone: 250-701-0961
Fax: 250-701-9160

Chemainus Community Police & Crime Prevention Office
9847 Willow Street
Chemainus BC VOR 1K0
Phone: 250-246-4382
Fax: 250-246-9174

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