[Press and Public Relations] Shoplifting Exposed

February 2002

No 28

University of Leicester research has used former shoplifters to reveal the weak spots in store security.

With the aid of miniature concealed cameras – known as “thiefcams” - concealed about their person, the volunteer shoplifters went into shops to reveal the ploys and tactics of their illegal skills.  

Nothing was stolen, but Professor Martin Gill, Director of the University of Leicester Scarman Centre learned a great deal about the particular situations that are attractive to shoplifters.

Within minutes of entering a store experienced shoplifters found areas not covered by security cameras and could identify safe positions from which to steal goods.  

Professor Gill noted: ‘We have found a new way of understanding how offenders exploit security loopholes and early evidence suggests that we are making it really easy for them’.

To make the exercise as authentic as possible, though store security managers were notified when the tests would be taking place, security guards themselves were unaware that any such event was happening.

As well as taking part in the exercise in stores, the shoplifters were very forthcoming about the tricks they employed.

Shoplifting is a major problem.   Britain is known as the shoplifting capital of Europe, and British retailers lose £2.9 billion a year to shoplifting.   The Centre for Retail Research revealed that retailers lose 1.76 per cent of heir turnover to a combination of shoplifting, fraud or administrative error, compared to a European average of 1.42 per cent.

Professor Gill said: “This pilot study was able to show us the weak spots in security systems used by stores in a way that simply studying CCTV video footage couldn’t do.  One store had an area right next to the counter not covered by CCTV, and another an entire office display, complete with printer, desk and phone.   We hope this pilot study will lead to more effective measures against this crime which costs the retail industry very dear.”

Note to editors:   Further information is available from Professor Martin Gill, Director, University of Leicester Scarman Centre, telephone 0116 252 5709, facsimile 0116 252 5766, email mg26@le.ac.uk

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: 4 February 2002 16:30
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