Crackdown on self-serve checkout theft

checkoutOpportunists’ days of using self-serve checkouts to get a five-finger discount on items such as that extra avocado are over, NSW police and supermarkets warn.

A NSW crackdown on petty theft at chains such as Coles has been launched, with the retailer saying it’s sick of customers who lie about what’s in their basket to get a discount or who try and avoid paying altogether.

“No matter how small you think it is, even if it’s the avocado and you’re saving $2, it’s still shoplifting,” detective superintendent Murray Chapman told reporters outside a supermarket in Zetland, in inner Sydney, on Thursday.

Coles says it’s caught roughly 11,000 customers stealing goods at its self-serve check outs across Australia over the past year.

“There has been a normalisation of theft at self-serve checkouts over the last few years,” Coles spokeswoman Martine Alpins said.

“There’s also a feeling that (because they’re) not being served by a traditional checkout person, ‘perhaps I have the entitlement’.”

But Coles said the machines weren’t going anywhere because they were convenient and increased customer traffic.

Det Supt Chapman said he couldn’t go into the specifics of the crackdown but warned potential thieves they wouldn’t go unnoticed.

“You won’t see the loss prevention officers visibly in a lot of centres and you won’t see police,” he said.

“But when we run these operations we’re out there and we work collectively to identify and charge people.”

According to professor Adrian Beck of the University of Leicester, the premise of  ‘how likely am I to get caught?’ is the one that influences offenders the most.

“We know that offenders like anonymity, it makes them feel bolder,” Beck said. “So if you can reduce their anonymity then that can increase their risk of being caught.

An expert in retail loss prevention, Beck has completed a comprehensive review of the published evidence to identify the most effective shoplifting deterrence methods based on a concept called ‘risk amplification’ — ways to make thieves think they are more likely to get caught.

Beck’s research reviews more than 130 studies on the effectiveness of deterrent techniques adopted by retailers.

“For many years retailers have invested heavily in a wide range of technologies and approaches to try and stop people stealing from their stores, such as EAS tagging systems, CCTV technologies, signage, changes to store design, the use of security guards and store staff to name but a few,” Beck said.

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