Retail store owners have battled for decades with the problem of shoplifting in their stores. Every year, thousands of dollars in merchandise disappears from store shelves forever, and many retailers have chosen to hire in-house security or loss-prevention officers. If you think that someone might be stealing from your store, here’s now to legally detain the shoplifter for the police.
Watch for Suspicious Customers
A highly-trained and experienced loss prevention officer will be able to spot a shoplifter a mile away, but you might have more trouble until you condition yourself to look for the signs. You don’t want to detain anyone until you’re certain that they plan to steal from you, so start looking for suspicious behavior. For example, a customer carrying a large bag and looking around every few minutes is someone to watch.
Monitor the Fitting Rooms
If you’re the owner of a clothing store, you’ll need to monitor the fitting rooms because it is a prime location from which to begin one’s thieving career. Shoplifters will enter a fitting room wearing bulky clothing, then put the store’s clothes on under their own outerwear and leave the store. If you don’t know how many pairs of pants enter the fitting room, you won’t know if the correct number are leaving. Again, you can’t legally detain a shoplifter unless you have valid proof that they are stealing.
Decide on a Course of Action
Some store owners would rather customers put things back than go through the hassle of trying to detain them. If this is the case for you, make the customer inexplicably aware that he or she is being watched. Most shoplifters will dump stolen items if they think they might have been made.
On the other hand, however, if you want to actually press charges against the shoplifter, he or she must leave the store before you can legally detain him. This means that the shoplifter and the merchandise must be outside your store’s doors before you can do anything, and this point is very important.
Enlist Help from an Employee
Unless you are a trained loss-prevention officer, you don’t want to detain a shoplifter without assistance. Granted, most thieves of this nature are unarmed and have no intention of assaulting anyone, but desperation brings out an unattractive color in people. Once the shoplifter has left your store, you and another employee should approach him or her from two different directions.
Escort the Shoplifter Back Inside the Store
Because mistakes are made every day, you’ll want to first verify that the customer is actually trying to shoplift. Many customers have sued retail stores for false arrest based on an assumption of thievery, so ask to see a receipt right off the bat. If the customer was shoplifting, you should escort him or her back inside the store to “discuss the matter in detail”. From there, you can decide whether or not you want to call the police.
Play by the Book
This article has been a primer on how to legally detain a shoplifter, but additional rules and laws may apply in your state. Never attempt to do this unless you are well-versed in the law, and until you know how to do it safely. Store owners should never involve another employee if the situation is potentially dangerous.