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Shoplifting: Problem-Oriented Guide for Police Series Guide No. 11

NCJ Number
Ronald V. Clarke
Date Published
September 2003
57 pages
This document focuses on measures to reduce shoplifting.
The usual shoplifting method of concealing items in clothing or bags is discussed rather than the unusual forms of theft involving trickery. Shoplifting is widespread due to self-service sales methods, fewer inhibitions about stealing from shops than from private individuals, and the unwillingness of retailers to take official action against shoplifters. The most important task for the police is to persuade storeowners and managers to improve their security. Shoplifting is often regarded as an entry crime, is said to fuel the drug trade, can seriously erode profits and result in store closures, and can consume a large proportion of police resources. For these reasons police cannot ignore shoplifting. The principal factor determining a store’s shoplifting rate is the type of goods sold. The most common items stolen in the United States are tobacco products, health and beauty products, recorded music and videos, and apparel ranging from athletic shoes to children’s clothing, with an emphasis on designer labels. The acronym CRAVED captures the essential attributes of these “hot products”: they are concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable, and disposable. Much shoplifting is opportunistic and involves younger people. Most shoplifting occurs when stores are busiest; in cities, near schools, and in deprived areas; and in stores with many exits, restrooms or changing rooms, high displays, and crowded areas. Analysis of shoplifting incidence is made difficult by low rates of reporting, and by the fact that police records rarely permit shoplifting offenses to be identified among reported thefts. In analyzing the local problem of shoplifting, the police should ask questions about the incidents, offenders, locations/times, conditions facilitating shoplifting, and current responses. Effective response strategies include encompassing good retailing practices, appropriate staffing, carefully articulated shoplifting policies, and selective technology use. Sanctions for shoplifting include civil recovery, informal police sanctions, early warning systems, banning known shoplifters, and launching public information campaigns. Appendix, references, and recommended readings