Shoplifting and robbery

What do YOU want to protect yourself against?

A short film on how to reduce shoplifting

This is about offences committed generally when you are open for business.  It is about protecting yourself and your business from those that would steal or harm you in the process of stealing.

Shoplifting (theft from shops)

  • People stealing from your premises i.e.shoplifters (theft from a shop) which can be contrary to section 1(1) and 7 of the Theft Act 1968 and would also cover any theft by employees should it occur.
  • Attempting to steal (theft from a shop) may also be considered and this is covered by the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 and would be contrary to section 1(1).
  • Section 11 of the Theft Act 1968 creates the specific offence of the removal of articles from places open to the public in certain circumstances.
  • If more than one person is present at the time of an offence but is not found to be committing the actual offence they can be considered for other offences such as aid and abet.

Robbery i.e. when a person uses force or fear to steal from another.

  • Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968 defines the offences of robbery and assault with intent to rob.  Section 8(1) states that a person is guilty of robbery if they steal, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, they use force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

What can YOU do to reduce the likelihood of it happening?


Things you can consider that may help to help protect your business, yourself and your staff.

This is not an exhaustive list but please consider:

  • CCTV which must be appropriate and fit for your purpose (one size definitely does not fit all).  See our section on CCTV for more information.
  • Signage – appropriate signs regarding the presence of operational CCTV and the positive action you will take against offenders.
  • The design and layout of your premises.  You may be a Manager governed by higher management but it doesn’t stop you from submitting ideas and proposals for change if there are problems to be solved e.g. if you are targeted for the theft of an item that you have been instructed to display near to entry/exit, propose a change and make it happen!
  • Staff training in how to react (staff safety is paramount and they are key to your defence against shoplifters) and use the practical tools made available e.g. appropriately placed mirrors, radios, who and how to make contact with for assistance.
  • Train staff to be observant and remember details to assist investigation or contribute to intelligence to capture regular (career) criminals or organised gangs.  See D&C leaflet – ID guide
  • What restrictions you may need to use if you have fitting rooms in your premises e.g. regular checks, monitoring of customers and items taken into the fitting room, are all goods returned to you or purchased (thieves will remove tags or labels quite often before they leave)? 
  • Taking action after you identify a theft has occurred – do something to stop it happening again.  Remember to make your changes obvious so that the returning thieve(s) notice you have taken action.
  • Display empty containers or boxes with the expensive item secured elsewhere.
  • Store security, independent or as part of a partnership with other businesses nearby. (Employ your own secruity or join with local businesses and secure the area against theives.)
  • Joining the police community messaging system to get information and alerts.  NB:  A Business Resilience Partnership (BRP) or Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP) will have this integrated into the scheme.
  • Consider joining or setting up a Business Resilience Partnership (BRP) or Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP).  

The top stolen items

Statistically it is possible to have a top ten (or even longer) list of items that get stolen.  Realistically, thieves will steal anything that has a value.  That is, a value to them or the intended buyer and not what you neccersarily consider to be of value.  Thieves will steal anything from nappies to coffee, socks to expensive coats/clothing and don’t think they will steal one at a time – the whole range of clothing from a display rail could be grabbed in an instant.  You may have seen shoplifters in action on television - a documentary showed a mother who is shopping with her child in a pushchair and then blatantly selects a ‘tray’ of 24 jars of coffee, places it under the child who then sits on it while she departs the store! 


Robbery is generally committed by desperate people and/or those who are organised (individually or as a team). It is a fact that security is a deterrent but no matter what security you may have the determined criminal(s) may have a go.

You have taken the advice and done everything you can to improve the security of your premises and your staff.

In Devon and Cornwall we are fortunate that robbery is at a very low level, but there is never room for complacency.

So what can you do in the unfortunate event that your business and/or staff become subject of a robbery? 

  • Priority – the safety of your staff and customers are the most important things to keep in mind
  • Keep as calm as possible – your ability to recall facts to assist the investigation is better if you remain calm and collected.
  • Activate alarms if available and only if personal safety is NOT compromised.
  • CCTV will capture events which are generally over quickly.  Remember the police will seek to recover a copy from available CCTV, so ensure that it is kept secure and not deleted or ruined by attempts to play it back locally.
  • Information is very important to the police in such circumstances.  Everyone present should have their details taken for police to interview after the event.  Train staff to assist  - you can make the D&C Police ID guide available to staff which lists the information police will seek out e.g. how many offenders, accents, height, clothing, shoe type/colour etc.   
  • A difficult one, but try to remember exactly what happened and in the order that it occurred.
  • Direction of departure - the escape route - can you advise police as sson as the offenders leave as to their direction of travel and whether a vehicle was used? Can you supply the make, model, colour and registration of any vehicles used?

Where can YOU get more help and advice?

Contact your local policing team for more advice and guidance or take a look at the various links and information opposite.

Becoming part of a partnership or setting one up so that advice and guidance can be delivered to a collective rather than time and again to individual businesses is the best use of time for everyone, so please consider that option.

Devon and Cornwall Police are proactive with developing crime prevention partnerships and is working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to achieve national standards and locally with those BRP/PCRP that have been established.

For smaller (or independent) businesses we are developing a relationship to improve advice and guidance sought wih the Federation of Small Businesses.


Crime Reduction Officer
Devon & Cornwall Police, Crime Reduction Dept
Police Headquarters
Middlemoor, Exeter

Non Emergency Directory (NED)

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