Been Caught Stealing

Photo: Creasource/Corbis

In the five minutes it takes to read this, 2,500 items worth $125,000 will disappear from U.S. retailers’ shelves. The gift-buying madness between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a prime time for shoplifters, who are a more diverse and richer coalition than you might expect, but retailers are finding their own creative ways to counter the five-finger discount.

Annual shoplifting losses:
> $13,000,000,000
(National Association for Shoplifting Prevention)

Frequency of shoplifting:
1 in 11 people has shoplifted

Average amount shoplifted by type of thief:
Employee: $715
Customer: $129
(25th Annual Retail Theft Survey)

Chance of …
Getting caught: 1 in 48
A caught shoplifter being turned in to police: 1 in 2

Who are the shoplifters?
According to a 2008 Columbia University study, shoplifting “was more common among those with higher education and income, suggesting that financial considerations are unlikely to be the main motivator.”
Adults: 75%
Under 18: 25%

Highly targeted items:
Designer hangbags
High-end vacuums
High-end mixers
GPS devices
Kids’ electronics
(National Retail Federation)

Percent of stores with …
Visible CCTV: 70%
Hidden CCTV: 46%
A plainclothes store detective: 33%
Door receipt checkers: 27%
Ink tags: 27%
Radio-frequency tags: 20%
Fitting-room attendants: 15%
Observation booths: 2%
(National Retail Security Survey)

Latest theft-prevention technology:

Smart tagging
With radio-frequency identification, smart chips can track what’s stolen from where.

Entry sensors
Can detect items in aluminum-lined “booster bags” used to foil sensors.

Source tagging
A two-inch rectangular tag sewn directly but unobtrusively into fabric.

Apple’s accelerometer system
Apple secured a patent for a motion sensor built into iPhones “to determine whether a theft condition is present.”

Have good intel? Send tips to

Been Caught Stealing