NZ First proposes 'on the spot' fines for shoplifters

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand First is calling for police officers to be given the power to hand out instant on-the-spot fines to shoplifters.

A member's bill submitted to the ballot today by NZ First MP Darroch Ball outlines that giving police such authority will curb up to 86 per cent of all retail crime.

Retail crime cost New Zealand retailers more than $1 billion last year.

A survey conducted by Retail NZ and Otago University found retailers did not report around 68 per cent of shoplifting offences because they expected no, or such a minimal response, that it would not be worthwhile to report.

The proposal, which defines shoplifting as theft of retail goods valued under $1000, campaigns for police to have the power to hand out a minimum $150 fine or "one and a half times the value of the stolen goods" - whichever is the greatest.

Retail NZ said it supported Ball's proposal to allow the police to issue instant fines to shoplifters.

"Petty theft from retail stores is a major issue right across the New Zealand retail sector, and Retail NZ has long advocated an instant fine approach," Greg Harford, general manager for public affairs, said.

"Allowing police to issue an infringement notice like a speeding ticket for petty shoplifting offences will offer a proportionate and sensible way of dealing with the tsunami of crime that is engulfing the retail sector."

At present, formal prosecutions for shoplifting are time-consuming and costly and must go before the courts. The only punishments available are either custodial sentences or fines handed down by a judge, Ball said.

"This bill shortcuts the litany of red tape, going straight to a scheme of proportional fines. It also sends the clear message that offenders will not get away with it."

Harford said police resources were stretched and so the proposal would be a win-win. "Ball's proposed bill will cut out unnecessary bureaucracy, and ensure that the police are effectively armed with the tools to combat retail crime."

Retailers are facing increasing crime and aggression with an industry report deeming in-store violence as "rampant" throughout the sector.

Dairy owners and those operating retail businesses perceived to hold more physical cash are increasingly becoming targets for retail violence.

In the year to April 30, there were 28,817 reported "thefts from retail premises", up from a reported 27,676 the year before, according to police data. It is estimated that thousands more cases go unreported.

Retail NZ hopes the bill will be drawn from the Member's Bill ballot, and enacted quickly by Parliament.

"It will ensure there are real consequences for petty thieves and help break the cycle of crime before shoplifters graduate into perpetrating more serious crimes," Harford said.

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