Retailers on lookout for certain type of 'shopper'

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013

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The number of convicted shoplifters in Invercargill has dropped in the past two years but some retailers have stepped up security for the festive period.

Figures released to The Southland Times by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show 74 people were convicted in the Invercargill District Court in the 2012-13 year for shoplifting compared with 104 in 2010-11.

There were a total of 420 convicted shoplifters in Invercargill in the past five years and a total of 548 across all southern courts.

The oldest shoplifter convicted across all southern courts in the past five years was a 71-year-old in Invercargill in the 2011-12 year and the youngest was 14. Children 13 and under cannot be charged with shoplifting.

Retailers were always keeping an eye out for shoplifters and some said they had increased security for the festive season.

One Invercargill retailer said most shoplifters did not get caught.

Grace Kent, assistant manager of Cotton On in Esk St, said shoplifting at the clothing store had increased since the beginning of the Christmas school holidays and it was a problem every school holidays.

Most offenders were not caught and the losses were not discovered until the three-monthly stocktake, she said.

This year, during the festive season, the company had organised more staff to cover the floor and were carrying out bag checks. There were also cameras in the shop, she said.

Shoplifters were mainly school-aged kids and there had even been some as young as 11.

Wild Thingz owner Angee Shand said employees made sure they were visible, and focused on prevention. She looked for certain behaviours, such as darting eyes. The business would have more staff during the festive season, she said.

Shoplifters tended to pinch pocket-sized items and often used prams and baggy clothing.

Esk St Night ‘n' Day manager Kurt Rohloff said shoplifting increased at this time of year but this was because the number of people coming in the door increased.

He often kept an eye on live cameras in the shop and looked out for certain behaviours.

They included people looking around to make sure no one was watching and some would come in with heavy clothing on a warm day, he said.

Shoplifters were generally aged between 16 and 25.

New World Windsor owner Warren McKenzie said he had never noticed an increase in the number of shoplifters during the festive period.

True Grit, in Dee St, shop manager Tina Lawson said its priority was to be on the floor. In the past five years there had only been four or five shoplifters.

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People left their bags at the door or at the counter. The shop was also small, she said.

Acting Senior Sergeant Wing-wah Ng, of Invercargill, said police would have an increased presence in the city around Christmas, including foot patrols, as part of Operation Spirit, which includes monitoring for shoplifting.

Retailers had stepped up security measures, which worked alongside the police prevention strategy, he said.

"It's all about prevention."

Some of those prevention methods in shops included security cameras, "loss prevention officers" and tag alarms at clothing shop doors.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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