Catching Shoplifters in 2018

Catching Shoplifters in 2018

Catching Shoplifters

Shoplifting is a popular term that is used to denote undetected theft of products or goods from open retail businesses. It is otherwise known as five-finger discount or ‘boosting’ and usually involves an individual that conceals an item in a store on his or her person, underclothes, in a bag, in pockets or a baby stroller. Then the individual exits the store without paying for the item.

Due to the increasing awareness about shoplifting and its attendant punishments when caught, shoplifters have become wiser and learned how to protect themselves the next time they visit any store. They employ an accomplice to assist them in the dastardly act. The accomplice either distracts a staff member or security guard while the shoplifter carries out the theft.

Shoplifting also involves swapping price labels or switching the prices of different goods, refund fraud, returning clothes after wearing them – known as ‘wardrobing’ – and sampling a store’s edible goods while in the store (known ‘grazing’). However, price switching is almost extinct since retail cashiers now scan goods or items at the register and don’t necessarily rely on price stickers. Additionally, any attempt to remove the price labels splits them apart.

Although the terms ‘shoplifter’ and ‘shoplifting’ is not explicitly defined in law, the crime of shoplifting, however, falls under the general categorization of larceny. This means that shoplifting is subject to prosecution. Shoplifting does not mean the same thing as burglary which involves breaking into a closed store to steal.

The National Retail Security Survey has been able to determine the amount of money that is lost as a result of shoplifting and have pegged it down to about $45.2 billion annually. This shows how devastating shoplifting can be, especially for small businesses.

In most cases, small stores or retail establishments have limited resources that will enable them to acquire and install the right security systems which will help in preventing shoplifters from doing any harm. Thus, the lack of resources makes them accessible and excellent targets for thieves.

In most cases, when shoplifters are caught, they are prosecuted. Some of them, however, have to deal with civil recovery; in this case, retailers press for additional payment to recover some of their costs.

Loss prevention is not an easy feat since it is practically impossible to know who should be watched so that retail theft can be prevented. Consequently, loss prevention specialists usually depend on their memory and intuition when it comes to choosing who should be monitored.

Investing in new technology to help in the prevention of retail theft is not a bad idea. A few of the most popular retail stores are making use of what is known as facial recognition technology to prevent retail theft. This is expected to dissuade known shoplifters from stealing anything anytime they visit your store.

Retail chains that have invested in this technology have had resounding successes and have been able to minimize in-store violence by approximately ninety percent as well as external shrink by twenty percent. This has proven that you can safely invest in the facial recognition technology to increase retail Return on Investment (ROI) and to enhance the safety of your store.  

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Steven M. Degener, J.D. Clayton, CA, United States Steve has spent over 25 years in Retail Loss Prevention. His last position held was VP of Loss Prevention for a Fortune 500 company. Other positions include Deputy Sheriff and Director of Loss Prevention Services for various Retailers. Our sites include, and Follow us with Twitter at LPACADEMYcom and Facebook at the Loss Prevention Academy.

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