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Shoplifting (also known as PIE theft, five-finger discount, or shrinkage within the retail industry) is theft of goods from a retail establishment. It is one of the most common property crimes dealt with by police and courts.

Most shoplifters are amateurs; however, there are people and groups who make their living from shoplifting, and they tend to be more skilled.

Economic impact and response from shops

According to a December 23, 2008 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dimperio's Market, the only full service grocery store in the Hazelwoodmarker neighborhood of Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, is closing because of shoplifters.

Retailers report that shoplifting has a significant effect on their bottom line, stating that about 0.6% of all inventory disappears to shoplifters. In 2001, it was claimed that shoplifting cost US retailers $25 million a day. Observers believe that industry shoplifting numbers are over half of by employee theft or fraud and the rest by patrons. Of course, if apprehended during the shoplifting, the merchandise is generally recovered by the retailers and there is often no loss to the store owner when the merchandise is surrendered to the store by the suspects. In addition, in many states retailers have the right to recover civil damages to cover the cost of providing security.

Legal aspects

Shoplifting is considered a form of theft and is subject to prosecution.

Rights of store operators

In the state of Californiamarker, and in most cases the rest of the United States and other countries, store employees and managers have certain powers of arrest. Store officials may detain for investigation (for a reasonable length of time), the person whom they have probable cause to believe is attempting to take or has unlawfully taken merchandise. At the very least, staff usually have citizen's arrest powers.

Generally, in the United States, the store employees who detain suspects outside of and inside the store premises are allowed by state statute limited powers of arrest and have the power to initiate criminal arrests or civil sanctions, or both, depending upon the policy of the retailer and the state statutes governing civil demands and civil recovery for shoplifting as reconciled with the criminal laws of the jurisdiction.

Retailers in the United States may have the authority under state laws to request Civil Recovery Demands .

Anti-shoplifting options

Shoplifting may be prevented and detected. Both options contribute to sound strategies.

Closed circuit television

Closed-circuit television(CCTV) monitoring is an important anti-shoplifting technology. Retailers focusing on loss prevention often devote most of their resources to this technology. Using CCTVs to apprehend shoplifters in the act requires full-time human monitoring of the cameras.Sophisticated CCTV systems discriminate the scenes to detect and segregate suspicious behaviour from numerous screens and to enable automatic alerting. However, the attentiveness of the surveillance personnel may be threatened by false reliance on automatics.CCTV is more effective if used in conjunction with electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems. The EAS system will warn of a potential shoplifter and the video may provide evidence for prosecution if the shoplifter is allowed to pass checkout points or leave store premises with unbought merchandise.

Electronic article surveillance

Electronic article surveillance (EAS) is second only to CCTV in popularity amongst retailers looking for inventory protection. EAS refers to the security tags that are attached to merchandise and cause an alarm to sound on exiting the store. Regularly, even when an alarm does sound, a shoplifter walks out casually and is not confronted if no guards are present. This is due to the high number of false alarms, especially in malls, due to "tag pollution" whereby non-deactivated tags from other stores set off the alarm.This can be overcome with newer systems and a properly trained staff. Some new systems either do not alarm from "tag pollution" or they produce a specific alarm when a customer enters the store with a non-deactivated tag so that store personnel can remove or deactivate it so it does not produce a false alarm when exiting the store. However, with tags that are stuck onto merchandise with glue (rather than being superimposed on) the shoplifter can easily scrape off the tag in their pocket.

Loss prevention personnel

Loss prevention personnel will patrol the store acting as if they are real shoppers. They may try on merchandise and browse the racks, all the while looking for signs of shoplifting and looking for possible shoplifters. Many large retail companies use this technique, and will watch a shoplifter conceal an item then stop them after they have exited the store. These types of personnel must follow a strict set of rules, however, because of very high liability risks. Many big retail or grocery stores like Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Zellers, Nofrills, Loblaws, etc. have an LP to keep an eye out for shoplifters or to catch runaways. Most of these stores use secret codes to alert, management, LP, and associates of shoplifters. LP is a very crucial job in that they act as an ordinary shopper and have to follow the suspects all around the store by foot or by johning the cameras, and watch every move the person makes so that they don't face a lawsuit for apprehending the wrong person. Usually if it's a big arrest that's going to be made, LP will call management or associates for back up.

Uniformed guards

The presence of uniformed guards acts as a deterrent to shoplifting activity and they are mostly used by high end retail establishments. However they are also used in stores like Target and Wal-Martmarker.

Exit inspections

Shoppers in some large stores are asked when leaving the premises to have their purchases checked against the register tape. In the US, shoppers are under no actual obligation to accede to such a search unless the employee has reasonable grounds to suspect shoplifting, or if the customer has signed a membership agreement which stipulates that such inspections will be allowed, as is the case at Sam's Club and similar members-only stores.

Close customer service

Floor attendants are instructed to greet, follow, and offer help with customer shopping. Shoplifters are not comfortable with this attention and may go somewhere else where they can work unnoticed.

BOB mirrors

Bottom of basket mirrors are commonly used in grocery stores where the checkout lanes are close together and the cashier might be unable to see the entire basket to ensure payment of all items.

Locked merchandise

Some expensive merchandise will be in a locked case requiring an employee to get items at a customer's request. The customer is either required to purchase the merchandise immediately or it is left at the checkout area for the customer to purchase when finishing shopping. This prevents the customer from having a chance to conceal the item.

Another way of locking merchandise, especially popular in liquor stores, is to place a secure, store-administered hard-plastic cap on a regular bottle top. Once purchased the clerk will remove the cap with a store key. It is not otherwise easily removable.

Many stores also lock CDs and DVDs and Video games in locking cases, which can only be opened by the checkout operator once the item has gone through the checkout.

Dummy cases

Some stores will use dummy cases, also known as "dead boxes", where the box or case on the shelf is entirely empty and the customer will not be given the item they have paid for until the transaction has been completed, usually by other Store staff. Some stores have been known to take this idea further by filling the dummy cases or boxes with a weight, similar to the weight of the actual item by using a weight specially made to fit inside the box. This causes the shoplifter to think that the box is full, trying to steal it and ending up with nothing. This is especially popular in movie rental stores such as Blockbuster.

Personnel policy

The choice of store and security personnel can strongly affect the ability of shoplifters to succeed. All personnel must be trained in the techniques shoplifters use to steal merchandise and the proper actions to take.

Test shoppers

Test shopping is a strategy to test the detection means in a shop. Subject of testing is primarily the alertness of surveillance staff and of the staff operating in the shopping areas.

Notable cases

A noted legal case involving shoplifting occurred in 2001 when actress Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Beverly Hills, Californiamarker. Ryder was eventually convicted of misdemeanor theft and vandalism and will be eligible for expungement of the conviction after finishing probation. Ryder was originally convicted by a jury of felony larceny/vandalism and was sentenced in a nationally televised California Superior Court proceeding in December 2002. In 2003, Will & Grace actress Shelley Morrison (who played Rosario Salazar) was arrested for shoplifting at a Robinsons-May store in Californiamarker; the charges were later dropped. In early 2006, former White Housemarker aide Claude Allen was arrested for an alleged return scam at a Target store in Gaithersburg, Marylandmarker.Jean Eaton, while mayor of Albert Lea, Minnesota, was accused of stealing hundreds of dollars worth of clothing from Marshall Field'smarker stores in Rochester, Edina and St. Cloud in an alleged clothing swap scam.Eaton had claimed that police acted illegally when they executed a search warrant that gathered evidence used to support a felony theft charge against her. Eaton later reached a plea agreement with Olmsted County prosecutors to have the felony charges dropped, by entering into an adult diversion program, which includes restitution, and possible community service.


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