Make-up, pens stolen as shop theft cases rise, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Make-up, pens stolen as shop theft cases rise

In 2023, staff at a clothing store in Ang Mo Kio Central saw a man in his 60s dash out of the shop with a pair of flip-flops that cost $16.90.

They chased him, and when they caught him, he begged for mercy, pleading with the staff to not call the police.

They let him off after he paid for the item.

The police told The Straits Times on May 18 that there were 977 shop theft cases in the first four months of 2024 – 99 more than the 878 cases in the same period in 2023.

A spokesman for chain store Watsons said shop theft cases rose by 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2024 from the same period in 2023.

Such cases have risen in recent years, with the figure growing by nearly 50 per cent from 2,652 cases in 2021 to 3,939 in 2023.

In its annual crime statistics released in February, the police said shop theft made up 19.7 per cent of reported physical crime cases in 2023.

More than two-thirds of the cases took place at retail outlets like department stores, supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. Items typically stolen included food and beverages, alcoholic drinks, personal care products, cosmetics, apparel and accessories, the police added.

Staff at the clothing store in Ang Mo Kio, who declined to be named, said the man was not the only person they caught. In 2024, the store’s employees chased a woman in her 50s who ran out of the shop with a shirt that cost $25.

Said a staff member: “She was very flustered when she was caught and begged us to not call the police.

“The staff who caught the two culprits had pity on them because of their ages, so they let them go after the items were paid for.”

A Watsons spokesman said culprits tend to target trendy products such as skincare, make-up and medication.

At supermarket chain Sheng Siong, shop theft cases rose by 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2024 compared with the same period in 2023.

Watsons and Sheng Siong are part of the Shop Theft Awareness for Retailers (Star) programme, where the police work with businesses to find solutions to tackle shoplifting.

As a result of the programme, Sheng Siong used its stocktaking mechanism to identify items prone to theft and installed sensors to detect theft.

Watsons installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and stationed loss-prevention officers in stores.

An employee at a craft store in Ion Orchard has seen shoplifters grab items and leave hastily.

The employee, who declined to be named, said shoplifters ranging from those in their teens to those in their 50s typically stole smaller items such as pens, notebooks and phone grips.

Some stole bigger items like bags, water bottles and laptop cases. She added that some shoplifters would ask staff questions to distract them. These include “Is this item on sale?” and “Where can I find this item?”.

Said the employee: “But the staff can sense something is up because they refuse assistance and look anxious when we offer help.”

She said there were several cases where the police were called in, and stolen items from other stores were found on the culprits.

On May 18, the police asked for the public’s assistance with several shop theft cases between April 4, 2023, and March 15, 2024, at Watsons, FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Cold Storage.

The police reminded the public that there are now more CCTVs within retail premises, allowing retailers to review footage and make police reports against shoplifters.

They added: “With the prevalence of technology such as CCTV cameras, you will be caught eventually, even if you manage to leave the store with the stolen items.”

They urged retailers to join the Star programme and take deterrent measures against shop theft.

If convicted of theft, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.