Make us your home page
Instagram

Retail theft climbs for first time in six years

For the first time in six years, retail theft has gone up.

While the recession played a role emboldening more amateur shoplifters, experts suggest there is more at work. And many academic studies over the years have failed to find a link between retail theft and a weak economy.

"People aren't stealing to feed their families," said Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection director for the National Retail Federation. "They're taking iPods, handbags and other discretionary items."

Just as big, if not bigger, of a factor is that retailers today have far fewer salespeople on the floor to keep an eye on the goods being spirited out the door.

"Stores are giving thieves more opportunity, which is why we're seeing more amateurs and first-time shoplifters arrested," said Richard Hollinger, a University Florida criminologist who compiles the national retail theft estimate. "I've been shopping where you have to actually track down a salesperson."

Retailers put a dollar figure on all goods they cannot account for, then make estimates based on cases and investigations made by their own store detectives, who build nearly all shoplifting cases for police.

Through that lens, Hollinger's preliminary estimate of missing merchandise in 2008: $36.5 billion — or 1.5 percent of all retail sales — up from $34.8 billion in 2007. His preliminary figures are based on reports from 95 of the nation's biggest retailers.

Employee theft, which accounted for 44 percent of losses, slipped for the first time in years. Vendor fraud and administrative errors dipped slightly to 19 percent. But shoplifting and theft by organized crime rings was up a percentage point to 35 percent of losses, or $12.7 billion.

"Amateurs try to get away with $100 or less, but the organized rings can walk out with $20,000 a pop," Hollinger said.

In fact, 92 percent of retailers said they were hit by organized rings of professional thieves in 2008, and three out of four said the problem was getting worse.

With fewer clerks on the sales floor, stores are leaning more on anti-theft tags, locked-up valuables and ceilings full of high-resolution, digital surveillance cameras.

"Our (anti-theft hardware) sales are off this year, but only because retailers are opening far fewer new stores," said Lee Pernice, retail marketing director for ADT Security Services, the Boca Raton maker of retail theft deterrent tools.

"The latest thing is smart cameras, which can be taught to look automatically for telltale patterns of a theft in progress," she said.

In one popular application, the camera measures how fast products are being removed from a display, then compares the size of the disappearance to the register activity to determine whether to signal a silent security alert.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727)-893-8252.

Retail theft climbs for first time in six years 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 8:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  2. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]