Christmas spike in shoplifting expected

Retailers should have an increased awareness of the risk and take the appropriate precautions.

Acting Senior Sergeant Chris George AS retailers get ready for the busy Christmas shopping season, they are also gearing up to fight the seasonal spike in shoplifting.

Acting Senior Sergeant Chris George said police expected more reports of shoplifting as it came closer to Christmas.

"Traditionally we see an upsurge in the number of cases," he said.

Professional shoplifters took advantage of shops being busy at this time of the year and were easily able to sell stolen goods to satisfy the demand for Christmas presents, Acting Snr Sgt George said.

"Retailers should have an increased awareness of the risk and take the appropriate precautions," he said.

As yet there had not been any upsurge but police expected incidents to increase closer to Christmas, he said.

Farmers department store loss-prevention manager Jim Smith said the store would be prepared, with more people on the floor and with in-store security cameras.

Workers were well-aware of people who could be considered professional shoplifters - they knew who they were and what they looked like, Mr Smith said.

Meridian Mall manager Michael Porter said the mall did see an increase in the numbers of shoplifters caught around Christmas time, but it was relative to the increase in foot traffic.

"Most of the shoplifters we catch are unfortunately generally younger people just taking advantage of the situation," Mr Porter said.

Most of the well-known shoplifters were already trespassed from the mall and security staff were experienced, he said.

In October, Mr Porter told The Star that 32 security cameras tracked shoplifters as they moved through the mall's common areas. Footage was used to help the police.

"I think we keep pretty well on top of it." University of Otago marketing senior lecturer John Guthrie has published studies on retail crime.

Christmas was a "perfect storm" characterised by economic pressures, demand for goods and people with free time, Dr Guthrie said.

'There is no doubt shoplifting becomes much more popular at this time of the year.

"But trying to understand the motivations behind the shoplifting is difficult because there are many reasons."

For many it was a business; for others it was linked to economic pressures and gift expectations at Christmas, Dr Guthrie said.

Almost all retailers knew about the increase in theft around Christmas time and were well-prepared, he said.


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