Shoplifters to go scot-free

SHOPLIFTING SPIKE: A supermarket employee has decided to break ranks and expose what she says is a major shoplifting problem in supermarkets across Ballarat.

SHOPLIFTING SPIKE: A supermarket employee has decided to break ranks and expose what she says is a major shoplifting problem in supermarkets across Ballarat.

A Ballarat supermarket employee has blown the whistle on how the big chains are handling shoplifting, saying she witnesses thefts every day and feels powerless to stop it.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said offenders were of all ages, filling up backpacks or trolleys with goods before sneaking through self-service checkouts. 

“I’m concerned at the way they brazenly come in and steal and do it in front of us staff,” she said.

The employee felt compelled to speak out after she said her supermarket’s management told staff to avoid approaching shoplifters, who were often repeat offenders.

“We’re not allowed to approach them, or call for a security check,” she said.

“I’m not allowed to call police, we have to leave it up to our management.”

Ballarat police treats shoplifting seriously.

The force will often post CCTV footage of offenders online if a retailer reports an incident.

Ballarat-based Inspector Bruce Thomas said retail theft prevention was tackled through a combined effort between police and retail stores.

Ditchy's view.

Ditchy's view.

This included CCTV monitoring, intelligent product placement, electronic security tagging on items, mechanical restraints on products such as in mobile phone shops and valuable items stored in locked storage.

But the supermarket employee said she had noticed a spike in shoplifting over the past year.

“I feel like saying here’s a trolley, fill it up and you can walk out the door,” she said.

“I see it two or three times a night, every shift.

“They take everything from makeup to food”

Self-service checkouts have opened up new avenues for thieves after they were introduced in Victoria back in 2008.

And research shows offenders feel less guilty stealing through self-service checkouts than they would otherwise.

Some analysts put the loss into the millions for supermarkets in Australia.

But experts say the loss is outweighed by the money saved by employing less staff.

FoodWorks Creswick owner Paul Cowland said shoplifting was still a big problem without self-service checkouts. 

“We notice stock goes missing every day, they’re hard to catch,” he said.

“They look straight at cameras, sometimes they’re not a deterrent.

“Staff call management and if they’re still in the store, they’re approached.

“It’s a big issue.”