“Beating Fear of a Shoplifting Surge: What are the Real Facts?

We’ve seen a lot of headlines and reports warning us of a potential spike in shoplifting due to the various store closures due to the pandemic. Are these fears grounded in reality? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the answer is: Not necessarily. Despite the glaring headlines, the Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that the incidence of shoplifting has actually remained fairly even compared to the pre-pandemic rates, which means that while the fear is understandable, the threat may not be as large as predicted. The majority of the reported decrease in shoplifting is due to criminologists believed that store closures and dropped demand of items in store have combined to lower the potential for theft. As store closures have become more widespread, fewer people have access to the store, and thus there are fewer people around who may be tempted to carry out illicit activities within them. The Bureau also believes that there may also be some correlation between increased digital shopping, as the ease of ordering things online may have reduced the need for brick-and-mortar shopping, and therefore the possibility of shoplifting. It also worth noting that despite the shoplifting rate staying the same, store owners and operators have taken several new proactive measures to curb any potential increase in shoplifting. An increase in surveillance and the standardized use of CCTV cameras around the store are one of the biggest changes we are currently seeing. Overall, the fear of a possible shoplifting surge may not be fully realized in all stores and areas—it appears to be more limited to certain areas that have experienced lengthy store closures and see less foot traffic than normal. It is in the stores that have not taken new proactive measures that these fears may be realized.

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