SHOPLIFTING FACTS AND PREVENTION
Did you know? Theft of a $2.00 item from a store operating on a 10% profit margin requires the sale of $20.00 in merchandise to make up the loss. Supermarkets and others operating on low margins of 1% must sell $300.00 in merchandise, just to cover the theft of a $3.00 item.
WHO ARE SHOPLIFTERS?
Section 494 of the Criminal Code of Canada specifically states where your authority comes from.
Anyone may arrest without warrant
Anyone who is the owner or a person in lawful possession of property; or a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property, may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.
- Anyone other than a peace officer who arrests a person without warrant shall forthwith deliver that person to a peace officer.
- As noted in subsection 2, the operative phrase is finds committing. You must actually see the offence take place. If someone tells you what occurred, you do not have the legal authority to detain that person for the police.
- If you do see someone take some property from your store, the offence has to be complete. That means the shoplifter must be given every opportunity to legitimately purchase whatever item is in their possession.
- Therefore the shoplifter must actually leave the store for the theft to be complete. Once outside, if you are absolutely certain the person took something, you should tell someone in your store what you are going to do, then approach the offender and identify yourself as the store owner or employee. Say something to the effect of, "I observed you take (item) from the store without paying for it (them). Come with me. I'm going to notify the police."
- In most cases, the off ender will do as you request. Escort the individual back to your office or other quiet area. Ensure the item(s) in their possession do not get discarded on the way there. You can look very foolish if this happens. Do not engage in searching the individual. Once in the office, ask for the property back. If the thief refuses, that's fine. Just ensure they remain seated with their hands in your view. The police will search them upon their arrival.
- If security personnel are on duty, they should be summoned immediately. They are trained in how to deal with the various ramifications of an arrest and they will also be able to assist in maintaining a physical "force" while waiting for the police.
- If security is not on duty, obtain some assistance from someone else - be it another employee, a neighbour or whomever.
- Ensure that when you call the police, you use the 9-1-1 system. That's what it's for. Tell the operator you are "holding a shoplifter." Ensure that the operator knows you are not a store detective, but an employee. This will speed up the response time. If there is any sign or potential of violence from the perpetrator, ensure you advise the operator - especially if the thief is not being co-operative.
If there is a potential for violence, remember there are no points for being a "hero." Your safety is paramount. A thief can always be caught. If they will not co-operate with you, that's fine. Go immediately to a phone and call the police.
Shoplifters must know that you mean business. Have a policy in place and post ads through-out the store to state that shoplifters will be prosecuted.
Many businesses suffer substantial losses each year from employee theft. Make sure this doesn't happen to you:
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