The ease of committing a crime like that is, in some part, traceable to decisions made by the retailers themselves, according to industry analysts.
Tony Sheppard, an executive at Canadian loss prevention software company ThinkLP, received his first exposure to the issue as a store detective at a Montgomery Ward store in the Boston area in the 1990s. “The first shoplifter I ever went to detain was a booster stealing a whole rack of coats,” Sheppard said. At the time, he carried handcuffs and detained the suspected thief himself. “Nowadays, unfortunately, because of safety concerns and liability issues, a lot of companies are very hands-off.”
Lawsuits from people injured by security guards in the process of apprehending shoplifters — in some cases, even from the alleged shoplifters themselves — have made aggressive in-store policing a losing proposition, Sheppard said.
In one recent case, a West Virginia woman won nearly $17 million in damages from Walmart after she was injured when a man being pursued for shoplifting stumbled into her, on the basis that Walmart escalated the situation. “Most companies realized from a financial standpoint it’s just not worth it. A couple big lawsuits take away anything you gain by making all those apprehensions,” he said.
Sometimes hiring staff to stop shoplifters in the first place doesn’t make financial sense, security consultant Chris McGoey said. “To hire and train a loss prevention department, especially a competent one, costs money,” McGoey said. Some retailers have found that the cost of the merchandise recovered by security staff was lower than the cost of employing them. “It’s almost cheaper to do nothing and just take the loss” on that basis, McGoey said, “but then you pile liability on top, it’s a no-brainer.”
Is it stores operating in certain States? Or is the State irrelevant?
Do some stores have a policy of allowing (or event requiring) their employees to stop shoplifters?
Looking at the issue from the perspective of the shoplifter, other than a belief in honesty (which is unlikely), why not shoplift?