50% of Belgian shops confronted with shoplifting
In 2009 one shop in two in Belgium was confronted with theft.
The figures represent a rise of 10% on last year. The results are based on a survey by UNIZO, the organisation representing self-employed and small and medium-sized senterprises.
According to shopkeepers the economic crisis has caused more people to turn to theft. "These are people who can no longer make ends meet because they earn less or they have lost their job and so they resort to stealing," explains Unizo.
"December is a a period where theft is rife. Shoplifters take advantage of the hustle and bustle," says clothing salesman Peter Geeroms.
"There are also people who think they deserve a discount," says Chris Declercq, manager of a Proxy Delhaize shop. "Especially older people think like that sometimes." We hear explanations like: "I've been a good client so I have the right to take that product, just like café regulars expect the café owner to treat everyone to a round of drinks every once in a while."
"The classic things to steal are perfume, clothes, high tech gadgets like mobile phones, or a GPS," says Kris Baetens of Unizo. "Luxury products are a target but so are things that are part of everyday life, things people do not want to give up." In the supermarkets, stealing meat is very popular. "And we're not taking about minced meat, but more expensive things such as steak," says Chris Declercq.
"Reporting the theft does not help"
Approximately six in ten shops that have been robbed over the past year say that they have been robbed fewer than 10 times. 13% of the shopkeepers say they have been confronted with more than 75 cases of shoplifting this year.
According to Unizo, only a minority of shops report the theft to the police, and only 70% of shopkeepers consistently press charges against a shoplifter.
Half of the stores never report the theft. "Probably because they know not much is going to happen," says Mr Baetens. "The police admit that shoplifting is not a priority for them."
For 6% of shops losses are estimated to be more than €10,000. Unizo is asking the authorities to put more police on street to patrol during the busy days during Christmas shopping and at sales time. Unizo say that this would be a deterrent to potential shoplifters.