Shoplifters go undetected with use of magnetic devices

March 20, 2017

Shoplifters go undetected with use of magnetic devices

Newmarket’s central street, Broadway, where a store employee attempted to chase down a shoplifter. Photo: Bella Askelund

Shoplifters using de-tagging magnets to steal retail items have stores rattled.

Among them is one in in Auckland’s shopping haven, Newmarket.

The store’s former stock coordinator, Gabby Oldfield, said shoplifting had occurred roughly once a week in the past.

But that number had grown due to people having “unknown access” to de-tagging magnets, said Miss Oldfield.

The magnets remove security tags that otherwise could only be removed by a professional.

Would-be thieves previously avoided stores such as the one she had worked in, due to tight security measures.

Last September, Miss Oldfield was left shaken up after chasing a woman down Newmarket’s busiest street, Broadway.

The woman “sprinted out of the fitting room” holding the dress she had tried on, Miss Oldfield said.

The dress cost more than $1,000.

Greg Harford, general manager of Retail New Zealand, said retail crime was on the rise.

It had become “increasingly organised, aggravated and menacing,” said Mr Harford.

Mr Harford said its dangerous nature was having a “real impact on the lives of those who work in retail”.

He said retail assistants needed to feel safe and secure at work again.

"Shoplifting is estimated to cost the country more than $1.2 billion a year, a cost which is ultimately paid for by consumers and tax payers.” said Mr Harford.

However, Senior Sergeant Brian Leonard said the number was much higher.

He said other costs were involved in dealing with the aftermath of shoplifting offences.

This included increased insurance levies, police time investigating and prosecuting the offender, the tax payer funding the legal aid bill and stores employing increased security.

In many cases he had dealt with in his role as police prosecutor at the Waitakere Court, retailers were not sure of what was taken due to inaccurate stock taking procedures.

He said the number was “well in excess of $1.2 billion”.

Because the issue had become so common, police did not attend most shoplifting incidents.

Senior Sergeant Leonard said attending every shoplifting incident would exhaust all police resources.

However, police would always follow up on any formal complaint received.

Penalties for shoplifting in New Zealand range from community service, to a fine or prison sentence.

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