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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

Shoplifting in the ACT fell 25% in 2020; can we keep it that way?

Shoplifting offences fell by approximately 25% this year, from 196 people caught last year to 148 in 2020, and ACT Policing announced its plans to keep it that way.

As customers return to brick-and-mortar stores to try on or try out goods before making a purchase, an anti-shoplifting operation will kick off.  

In the lead up to Christmas and Boxing Day sales, ACT Policing Detective Inspector Adrian Craft said yesterday, 16 December, that law enforcement will patrol shopping centres in uniform and plain clothes, actively targeting those looking for a five-finger discount.  

ACT Policing Detective Inspector Adrian Craft announces the shoplifting crackdown at the Canberra Centre, Wednesday 16 December. Image: Kerrie Brewer

“There’s no particular person we would describe as a shoplifter,” he said.

“There’s no profile of a shoplifter, there’s no picture of a shoplifter.

“They can be people from all walks of life who shoplift or steal for many different reasons.”

Of the shoplifters caught in 2020, about 60% were men, 40% were women, and 90% of offenders were under the age of 40, according to data provided by ACT Policing.

The age group with the highest number of offenders was between 15 to 19 years old, with 39 on the record.

For those caught in the act, Detective Inspector Craft said police will determine their next steps on a case-by-case basis.

“If we catch anyone, we’ll be investigating the matter and then undertaking a prosecution if necessary, or some sort of diversionary activity.

“But people need to understand that if they are caught shoplifting by the police, it does go on their record and that can affect them later in life.”

Despite a national increase in retail turnover in October (1.4%), turnover in the ACT was relatively unchanged at -0.1%, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Detective Inspector Craft said it was a very difficult year for local businesses and as the Territory began to move towards recovery and some sense of normality, crowds of people were returning to the shops to make face-to-face purchases.

“Obviously, that can attract people who are going to the shops to try to obtain items without paying for them.”

In a 2019 publication, Legal Aid ACT explained shoplifting is legally called ‘minor theft’ in the ACT.

The current maximum penalty for minor theft is $8000, 6 months’ imprisonment or both.

Detective Inspector Craft asked shop owners to remain vigilant, keep an eye on their premises and property, and report suspicious activity to the police.

“There’s no particular shops that are targeted, obviously larger businesses are seen to be a slightly softer target.

“But we do tend to see it right across the board, large businesses and small ones.”

Image: Kerrie Brewer

ACT Policing provides a free service to local businesses, offering information on how to protect your business from crime. To speak to an ACT Policing Business Liaison Officer, call 6256 7777.

Legal Aid ACT helps people in the ACT with their legal problems, especially those who are socially or economically disadvantaged. For free and confidential advice, call 1300 654 314.

If you witness theft or any activity related to shoplifting, you should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website. Information can be provided anonymously.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts