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New research identifies how shoplifters steal

Shoplifters across three continents have been filmed by academic researchers for the first time as they recreated their crimes.

The findings revealed today show that crooks target certain stores and use remarkably similar methods in order to shoplift.

Report author Professor Martin Gill, of University of Leicester spin-out company Perpetuity, said there were important lessons to be learnt by retailers.

He said: “Our study is based on taking shoplifters back to retail outlets and getting them to recreate their offences, this time while they are filmed. The study has been conducted with over 100 thieves in the UK, Spain, Brazil, Canada and the US.

The report, ‘shoplifters on shop theft: lessons for retailers’ offers fascinating insights into how thieves say they steal and provides retailers with insights that can help them tackle shoplifting.

The report looks at the ‘decision circle’, the six key stages at which thieves make decisions about their stealing, they are:

1. Choosing the store
2. Entering the store
3. Locating the product
4. Concealing the product
5. Leaving the store
6. Disposing of the goods
Professor Gill notes that: ‘The striking finding is that despite lots of security measures in-store thieves say retailers make it easy for them’.

The report outlines the different ways in which retailers inadvertently help thieves, for example by:

- installing inappropriate measures and ones that are not fit for purpose

- failing to train staff on the shop floor what to look for

- organising store layout in a way that is conducive to theft

Professor Gill adds: ”The single most important thing retailers can do is to fully understand the problems they are facing. This requires data and intelligence, and then to target appropriate measures and ensure they work effectively. This is as much about people and process as it is security.

“By understanding where thieves make the important decisions and by gaining insights into what they are thinking at different stages we are able to arm retailers with more information about crime.”

For example, thieves were able to find plenty of blind spots in store to disguise their stealing, and staff were often disinterested in them and this made things easier, and there was a lack of effective exit controls.

This international study found that although countries and stores may vary, shoplifter approaches are remarkably similar and they use very similar techniques to avoid being detected by alarms, tags, cameras and guards. There were some differences, for example guards were seen as much more susceptible to bribes in Brazil.

An abstract of the report can be viewed at: and there are directions there about how to obtain a full copy of the report.

Alex Jelley | alfa
Further information:

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