Shoplifting Prevention

Shoplifting Prevention

Shoplifting is stealing and stealing is a CRIME. Each year Bermuda's merchants lose millions of dollars worth of goods to shoplifters. It is a crime which directly affects every person living in Bermuda - even our visitors - since to make good their losses, retailers must increase the cost of their goods to customers.

Though the figure varies from store to store, up to percent of a retailers annual 'shrinkage' can be attributed to shoplifting, the other half to staff thefts and paperwork errors.

Who Shoplifts? Shoplifters basically fall into five categories:

a Professional shoplifters - of whom there are few in Bermuda.
b Drug addicts - who steal to support a habit.
c Kleptomaniacs - who have a psychological compulsion to steal.
d Juveniles - who shoplift for "kicks"
e Ordinary people - who may be tempted just once to shoplift.
• Basic Advice  
• Preventative Measures
• Detaining Shoplifters
• Describing a Suspected Shoplifter
• Taking a Risk
• Final Word

Basic Advice

1 Encourage staff to be courteous and attentive-shoplifters shun attention.
2 Have staff keep a general watch over the store and pay special attention to customers carrying large shopping bags or parcels.
3 Staff should avoid bringing out more than one item of high value at a time to show to customers.
4 Whole sections of the store should never be left completely unattended.
5 Stores should set their own strict policy on the number of items of clothing which a customer may take into a changing room at one time. The maximum should be no more than three.
6 Empty hangers must be removed from changing rooms as soon as they are discovered. Finding empty hangers will then become a signal that shoplifters are at work.

Erect warning signs stating that you prosecute shoplifters, and follow through with your warnings. Co-operate with the Police Service and take shoplifters to court - the word will get about. See drawing "A"

8 Avoid having narrow cluttered aisles which thieves prefer. Display merchandise so that it can be easily seen, and so that you can see your customers too.
9 Display cases exhibiting expensive goods should be kept under lock and key, and should be positioned far away from exit doors.
10 Erect mirrors in out-of-the-way areas to aid in watching customers.
11 Items which go missing will be noticed quicker if goods are neatly laid out.
12 Always give customers a receipt - you may need to make a spot check if you suspect that somebody is shoplifting.

Preventative Measures

1 'Article Surveillance Systems' are available locally, whereby articles are tagged and an alarm is activated should a customer attempt to leave the store without paying for merchandise in his/her possession. See drawing "B".
2 Bermudian security equipment companies can supply video cameras, recorders and monitors, and can provide qualified local technicians to install such equipment. Some equipment is programmable for unattended operation.
3 Consider hiring plain clothed or uniformed security guards at busy times of the year - such as Christmas.
4 Local security firms can also supply and install audible (local) or silent burglar alarm systems in your store. The more sophisticated systems can incorporate a fire alarm system as well.

Detaining Shoplifters

If you honestly and reasonably believe in your own mind that a person is shoplifting, it is wiser to wait until that person is leaving or is outside the store before you confront them. Be courteous and firm. Explain to the person why you are stopping them, and escort them back inside the store - preferably to an empty office. Invite that person to empty his/her pockets and bags onto a table for inspection. If merchandise is discovered from your store, ask to see receipts. Should the person be unable to produce receipts and you believe the items to be stolen, take possession of those goods and telephone the Police at once. Detain the thief until the Police arrive to handle the matter.

Ideally a female member of staff should always be present when dealing with female shoplifters.

Should the suspected thief be uncooperative, you have the right under law in certain circumstances , to make a Citizens Arrest '. That is, to detain a person actually seen (or whom you honestly and reasonably believe ) to have committed a serious crime such as shoplifting, and to hold that person until the Police arrive on the scene.

Describing a Suspected Shoplifter

If the shoplifter cannot be detained, the next best thing to do is to obtain as good a description as possible. Write down all that you can remember about the person and telephone the Police right away.

In particular try to remember what is different about the person - his/her mannerisms, unusual habits, speech (accent and phrasing), scars, tattoos, jewellery etc. It is especially important that you also say in which direction the thief was headed when last seen. Was a vehicle used in the getaway? If so, what was the licence number?

The identity charts below should be used for guidance when describing persons to Police.

Taking a Risk

Shoplifting is stealing and persons who steal can expect to be dealt with accordingly by a Court of Law. Besides the obvious embarrassment of appearing in Court, the convicted shoplifter faces a fine or term of imprisonment of both. He or she may also lose their job and therefore their source of income. In addition, certain categories of employment and special 'licences' may be closed to that person. It is possible that he or she will be placed on the Immigration 'Stop Lists' of foreign countries (especially those in North America), and any future opportunities for further job training and education abroad will be severely limited. Finally of course the convicted shoplifter collects a criminal record.

Don't believe that juveniles can get away with shoplifting simply because of their age - there are special juvenile Courts to deal with offenders under sixteen years of age.

Persons convicted of stealing from their employers face even stiffer penalties under law since they are regarded as being in a position of trust. Quite simply, person who steal are taking a lot bigger risk than they probably realize.

Final Word

The vast majority of shoplifting offences go unreported and therefore annual statistics are misleading. It is important that all such thefts be reported to Police as soon as they are discovered - at least the Police Service will then have something to work on. If property is not reported stolen, how can the Police be expected to recover it?

Important Telephone Numbers

Police (Emergency)
Bermuda Chamber of Commerce
Police Inquiries
Hamilton Police Station
Somerset Police Station
Southside Police Station