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The Cost of Shoplifting This Season

Shoplifting may have led to a man's death outside a Lithonia Walmart, but how does the petty crime affect the average consumer?

From Cartersville Patch

Shoplifting, a petty crime that may have cost a man his life outside a Walmart in Lithonia, hits Georgia families in the pocketbook each year.

Vidal Calloway, 40—a good person who had a drug problem, according to his wife—was dead when police came to arrest him on suspicion of shoplifting two DVD players, Stone Mountain-Lithonia Patch reported. The police report indicated Calloway was involved in an altercation with two employees and a private security agent.

The "truly sad situation," according to Walmart, brings to light incidents that happen every day, all across the country, and even more so during the holidays.

About 27 million people in America—that's 1 in 11 people—are shoplifters, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. More than $13 billion in goods each year are stolen from retailers, which represents more than $35 million per day.

"We have security measures in place to deter criminal activities such as shoplifting, and our asset protection teams do an excellent job of following those procedures," Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee said about shoplifting. "We serve more than 140 million customers in our U.S. stores every week, and unfortunately, there will be individual incidents. But let me assure you that every store puts a lot of focus on its security and crime prevention measures."

While Walmart has "been successful in identifying people who break the law and steal from our stores," according to Gee, its "associates are trained that the safety of our customers and our associates is our first priority," she said in a statement on the Lithonia incident. "No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life. Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk."

In October, a loss prevention worker at Walmart in Cartersville was allegedly assaulted by a suspected shoplifter he confronted in the parking lot. Inside the city limits, eight of the 14, or 57 percent of the theft or larcency cases logged by Cartersville police during the week of Nov. 21 to 28 were for shoplifting, according to CrimeMapping.com.

It's an issue that "overburdens the police and the courts, adds to a store's security expenses, costs consumers more for goods, costs communities lost dollars in sales taxes and hurts children and families," NASP says.

Shoplifters put retailers in the red by nearly $51.5 billion in 2011, and many stores reported actual and attempted shoplifting was up, according to the Center for Retail Research

Crimes affecting retailers' inventories plus their investments to prevent them pull at the purse strings of American families to the tune of nearly $200 a year, according to CRR. That's more than $66 per individual.

The "vast majority" of shoplifters steal not out of criminal intent, financial need or greed, but as a response to social and personal pressures in their lives, according to NASP.

Did you realize how much shoplifting could cost consumers? Where does the responsibility lie—with the retailers or the shoplifters? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Fred Tarasoff December 04, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Shoplifting as well as internal theft seems to be a growing problem and only gets worse in during the holiday shopping season. One area that often retailers fail to deal with is to make their employees part of the loss prevention solution. Employee and management training is one of the most cost effective ways of dealing with theft. This type of training makes an establishment a tough target and shoplifters often will move onto an easier target. It has also been shown that LP training reduces employee theft because each employee tends to take greater responsibility and tend to police themselves more effectively. Although retailers often spend a great deal of resources on anti-theft devices which is all good, a trained staff is a perfect compliment to security systems. It should be remembered that shoplifters are more sophisticated than ever before and more educated in stealing (thanks to the internet) and often can outsmart the latest anti-theft device.

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