Shoplifting in operators’ sights

LEFT REELING: Spot On Fishing's Craig Philp and Jamie Coates are frustrated by shoplifters who think they will get away with stealing from their store. Picture: TODD LEWIS

LEFT REELING: Spot On Fishing’s Craig Philp and Jamie Coates are frustrated by shoplifters who think they will get away with stealing from their store. Picture: TODD LEWIS

SHOPLIFTING remains an ongoing challenge for businesses in Mount Gambier with a spate of recent incidents in the city leaving local retailers frustrated.

Spot On Fishing was a recent victim of dishonest criminal behaviour when a thief entered the store on Tuesday and stole a handle from a fishing reel.

It was not until last Wednesday when staff Craig Philp and Jamie Coates noticed the reel part missing and reviewed security camera footage.

“Quite often you do not catch people in the act because we cannot afford to have someone on the camera 24/7,” Mr Philp said.

“You can never pick a shoplifter – that particular person was well-spoken, well-dressed.”

While the part stolen was only valued at around $12, Mr Philp said it is the dishonest acts that makes shop owners angry.

“In our game of fishing tackle, over 99pc of people who come in the door are great people, but that minority of scum who steal make you sick to the core,” he said.

“Over time it would be one reason to get out of the game.”

The incident came just a week after another man – Dayne Davis – was convicted and fined $300 for stealing a torch from the store earlier this year.

Once again, security camera footage was able to help police identify the defendant and he pleaded guilty to theft in the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court.

Despite the successful prosecution, Mr Philp believed penalties imposed by the court were not acting as a big enough deterrent to the offenders.

“I feel sorry for the police because they put all the hard work in, but when these people go through the judicial system they are just given a slap on the wrist,” he said.

Sharing in the frustration, Arena Sports Store owner Michael Pitt said shoplifters could have a major impact on a small business owner’s livelihood.

“If I get 10 tennis racquets in the shop, I do not make any money until I have sold the 10th one, so if one is stolen, I do not make anything,” Mr Pitt said.

“That’s what people do not understand, it is my livelihood, they are not taking money from the shop, they are taking money out of my pocket.”

Mr Pitt has recently taken the step to introduce a security system in the store, which has made it easier to catch thieves.

“It has made it a lot better, we were amazed at how different our stocktake was,” he said.

“In saying that, you still have to remain very vigilant.”

No-one likes to be labelled a thief and Mr Pitt said it can be a challenge to confront shoppers about stealing.

“You have to be 110pc sure – I have let people go when I suspect they have stolen something because you have to be very careful when accusing someone,” he said.

Mount Gambier Police Acting Sergeant Stephanie Rickard from the Limestone Coast Crime Prevention Unit said educating retailers was her key focus in preventing shoplifting.

“Particularly if we identify a business that has become a target for shoplifting, we will educate them on what action they can take to prevent theft in their store,” Act Sgt Rickard said.

“High quality security camera footage always gives police the best opportunity to catch offenders.”