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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.

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. 

If you have evidence of the offence/offender you will then be sent an email which will ask you to complete a Shop Theft Evidence Pack.  This will help the officer investigate the offence. 

The evidence pack includes

Read the guidance below and use the shop theft pack checklist to make sure that you complete the full process.

You should return these documents by replying to the email that you received. 

Guide to completing the Shop Theft Evidence Pack

Witness statement

This is an official form that details the facts of what happened from your point of view. This forms the basis of your evidence when a case goes to court and is given to the prosecution, defence and the magistrates or judge.

Notes

  • Please ensure all editable fields are complete.
  • Where each page states ‘signature’, this will only be required if we identify a suspect and the evidence will be taken to court.  At this point, we will require a wet signature on each page of the statement.

CCTV

Review your CCTV and select the best image possible that you think the offender will be most recognisable from.  This image will form the basis of identifying the suspect. 

Complete the CCTV statement.  If the witness to the events is different to the person who reviewed the CCTV, both individuals should complete this form.

It is important that the offence itself is caught on CCTV so ensure the CCTV chronology sheet is completed as thoroughly and accurately as possible.

You should complete an exhibit label for your CCTV image. 

The full CCTV footage will be seized if/when the suspect(s) are identified, so it is important you keep it safe and secure for at least 6 weeks following your return of the evidence pack.

Record of stolen goods

Scan a copy of a till receipt or invoice to indicate the value of stolen goods.  Complete an exhibit label for the receipt/invoice.

Completing an evidence exhibit label

An exhibit is an item that can be produced in evidence. It is essential that an exhibit label is attached to each item of evidence.

You should fill out a minimum of two labels (one for the CCTV image and till receipt/invoice), however additional labels are provided if you have further evidence to submit.

The exhibit identification reference number is the initials of the person producing the exhibit. For example, if John William Smith produced the CCTV image, their exhibit reference would be JWS/01. If you do not have a middle name, then use the first letter of your first name and surname. For example, John Smith would be JS/01.

Any subsequent exhibits produced by the same person will be recorded numerically. For example, if after producing the CCTV image John Smith went on to also print a till receipt, this exhibit would be labelled JS/02.

How to submit your evidence

When submitting your evidence, remember to include:

You can submit all of your evidence by replying to the email or by sending to the station as detailed in your email.

If sending by email, please include scanned copies of the exhibit receipts and ensure you keep the original copies.

What happens next?

You will be kept up to date with the progress of the investigation.

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.

See our Frequently Asked Questions on shop theft, which includes a flowchart on the investigation process.

Related Documents & Further Reading

14 May 19 8:48 AM

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