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(773) 908-9811



Aggressive. Experienced.

Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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9 Common Shoplifting Techniques Authorities Watch For

From neighborhood convenience stores to chain supermarkets to high-end retailers downtown, Chicago businesses of all kinds are being hit hard by shoplifting.


Retail theft crimes can affect these businesses in a big way, hurting profits, shrinking product inventory, and increasing production costs.


In response to rising rates of shoplifting in our city, retailers and law enforcement officials alike are taking serious measures to combat retail theft crimes. Law officers, loss prevention personnel, and store employees alike are trained to keep a close eye out for common shoplifting techniques in order to protect businesses and prevent inventory loss.


Below, we’ve listed nine common shoplifting techniques that police and security staff watch for.


Concealing items. One of the most common techniques used by shoplifters to remove goods from a store is to conceal items within their clothing, purses, backpacks, strollers, umbrellas, and other personal items. Shoplifters also may hide an item within the package of another item in order to only be charged for one. Store employees and loss prevention managers are instructed to monitor customers who have concealed items to see whether they will attempt to leave the store without paying for them.


Walking out. Alternatively, many shoplifters will simply remove an item from the store and walk out without even trying to hide the item. While brazen, this approach to shoplifting is often successful because it can be performed without betraying signs of suspicious activity.


Metal bags. Shoplifters in Chicago have been known to conceal stolen items within bags lined with metal in order to prevent security tags from setting off alarm systems. Loss prevention staff members are often trained to monitor customers with large bags, and many stores enact policies that prohibit visitors from bringing outside bags into the store entirely.


Switching tags. In many cases, shoplifters will switch a higher price tag with a lower one in order to pay the lesser of the two prices. To prevent this type of shoplifting, businesses are making a greater effort to label items more strategically.


Chicago Shoplifting Attorney

Unwrapping items. Shoplifters may bring merchandise into the restrooms in order to open them and remove the wrapping. Once unwrapped, these items may not trigger security alarm systems when the shoplifter attempts to leave. To deter shoplifters from using this method, businesses have introduced policies that prohibit unpaid merchandise in restrooms.


Causing a disruption. With this shoplifting technique, multiple people may enter a store and work together to distract employees while others shoplift. Loss prevention personnel are trained to remain wary of large groups acting unusually loud or rowdy.


Inside jobs. Often times, employees collaborate with shoplifters to steal items or money from the business. Managers and loss prevention staff pay special attention to store employees who are often visited by friends while working.


Phony returns. Many shoplifters will take an item directly from the store, walk to the return counter, and attempt to return the item for cash or store credit. In order to avoid phony returns, many stores are enforcing strict return policies.


Left handing. In some cases, retail thieves pay for one item while holding the item they intend to steal in plain sight in order to cause confusion. This technique is sometimes called “left handing” to suggest that one item may be stolen with the left hand while the right hand pays the other. Loss prevention personnel are encouraged to approach customers who they witness left handing and calmly point out they forgot to pay for an item. If the customer claims ignorance but returns the item rather than paying for it, this is interpreted as a sign that theft was their true intention all along.


Tougher Loss Prevention Policies Mean More Arrests


Tougher Loss Prevention Policies Mean More Arrests

Unsurprisingly, as businesses enforce tougher loss prevention policies, false accusations and arrests have become increasingly common. If you have been accused, arrested, or charged with shoplifting, you should consult with a Chicago attorney experienced in defending theft crimes immediately.


Though many mistakenly dismiss shoplifting as a minor offense, being charged with retail theft can carry severe consequences, including fines, jail time, and a life-long criminal record. Even if the incident was a misunderstanding, prosecutors are notoriously unforgiving when it comes to this type of crime, and you’ll need a tough defense strategy in order to prove you had no intent to take the item without paying for it.


When you work with a skilled criminal attorney, he will listen to your side of the story before explaining your options and working with you to build a powerful defense. With a good retail theft lawyer on your side, you may be able to prove that shoplifting was not committed intentionally, and get the criminal charges against you reduced or dropped.


About the Author:


Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.


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