Shop theft

We receive over 5,500 calls from retailers each year reporting shop theft.  Shoplifting can have a huge impact on businesses, particularly small independent retailers both financially and emotionally.

Shop theft prevention advice

  • Invest in a properly managed CCTV system. Make sure appropriate signage is displayed.
  • Consider placing a wall mounted CCTV monitor near to till points.
  • If you are designing your shop try and use low-level aisles so your staff can see customers at all times. Use mirrors to reduce blind spots.
  • Manage the obstructions in your store and avoid shelving or displays so high that they obscure surveillance.
  • Do not place displays of tempting goods close to doors.
  • Your staff are amongst your most important and effective defences against shoplifters - ensure you provide them with proper training.
  • Either empty packets of high value goods or put them behind or near checkout areas.
  • Consider investing in a store security guard or join a retail radio scheme if one operates in your area - this means you can be alerted if known shoplifters are near your premises.
  • If your store has a fitting room, introduce restrictions on access and have an attendant monitor all stock going in and coming out. Be sure to check the fitting rooms frequently for garments left behind. Pay special attention to discarded price tags, security tags and hangers - these may be an indication that shoplifting has already occurred.

Dealing with a detained shoplifter

Only detain a shoplifter if you have had the appropriate training and if it does not put you in immediate danger.

  1. Take the detained person to a safe location within the store. A minimum of 2 staff members must be present.
  2. Obtain and verify the identification of the offender(s).
  3. Determine if any aggravating factors* are present.
  4. Contact us on 101 or 999 (in an emergency) as appropriate, and relay the circumstances and personal details of the offender(s) to enable a police assessment to be completed. You will be advised over the telephone immediately or on call-back if a police patrol will be deployed.
  5. You must make it clear to the offender that the police will be called and their details will be shared. The offender(s) details will also be recorded against the crime, in order to prevent the commission of further offences.
  6. If deemed suitable for your retail business to process the offender(s) internally (without a police presence), issue a store sanction.

Aggravating factors

An aggravating factor refers to an offence in the process of being committed, or becoming worse. When a store has an offender detained for shoplifting within its premises, managers and staff will assess the incident as to whether any aggravating factors are present.

Read more on aggravating factors

How to verify someone's identity

The retailer must satisfy itself that the detained offender(s) have given their correct identity with a valid address. If you have any suspicion that personal details provided are false, or the offender is not cooperating, a police patrol will be deployed.

There are a number of ways you can verify an offender’s identity:

  • Official identification such as driving license, passport, education ID card or other identification with available photo.
  • Non-photo identification such as utility bills, bank statements and electoral roll may support verification, but this should be treated with caution.
  • Social media, such as Facebook, would not be considered adequate to verify identification.

Report it

Report a shoplifting offence by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.  You should still report the offence even if there are no aggravating factors and the offender has left the premises.

If an offender is present, detained or you know who it is, then call 101 or 999 as appropriate.

If you are calling to report a historic crime with no identified person as a suspect, then please consider reporting your offence using our online crime recording tool.

Every reported shoplifting incident is assessed and recorded as per Home Office guidelines.  Once the assessment is complete, the incident is recorded as a crime.  This is the case whether an officer is deployed for attendance or not. 

In all cases where an offender is detained, or there is an aggravating factor such as a threat, assault or racial hatred element an officer will be deployed to deal with the report.

If the offender or the vehicle used is identified in your report, this will be allocated to a local officer to investigate.

Where the offender is not known, then the crime will be dealt with centrally, and we will use your email provided to send you a unique link to our online portal where you can submit an image of the offender. We will attempt to identify the person, and if we can do so, the crime will be allocated to an officer.

We will positively deal with offenders who target your business, this will usually result in court proceedings.

On occasions, you may be asked to go to court to give evidence, which usually only happens if someone is charged to court and pleads not guilty.

Your evidence is essentially what is in your statement, and the prosecution and defence solicitors will ask you questions to confirm what happened.

14 Jan 22 9:10 AM

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