Shops seek new solutions to thwart theft problems

Japan news April 2017

A new shoplifting record was set in Japan last year, with total losses estimated at ¥461.5bn. According to the National Police Agency, shoplifting accounted for 11.3% of all reported crimes.

In an interview in the 15 March edition of the Nikkei Marketing Journal, Yutaka Takehana, chairman of the non-profit National Shoplifting Prevention Organization, noted that, compared with other crimes, which have declined, incidents of shoplifting have shown almost no change.

“The figures reflect the number of known cases. But it’s possible that, if the amount of unreported incidents is worked in, the actual losses could be twice as high”, he remarked.

By comparison, losses in the United States, where shoplifting by organised gangs tends to be more common, are estimated to be around the equivalent of ¥3.3tn a year.

Over the past half decade, various changes have taken place. Since 2012, the number of thefts perpetrated by elderly people in Japan has exceeded that by minors, with losses said to be particularly conspicuous in local supermarkets. People working in teams tend to target chemists and clothing shops, with increases in the number of shoplifters attempting to sell their haul on Internet auction sites or by mailing parcels to buyers abroad.

To combat the spread of shoplifting, some shops have decided to try and tackle the issue themselves, posting pictures of the alleged shoplifters’ faces on bulletin boards inside the shop, or even on the Internet, to help catch the perpetrators involved.

“I can understand how frustrating it must be for the retailers, but I’d prefer to see them act with prudence”, Takehana remarked. “By disseminating pictures and data via the Internet, there’s always the possibility of some kind of counterattack, and the store will wind up becoming further victimised”.

Takehana’s organisation is working with retailers to develop more reliable methods for managing losses, while also encouraging firms to make more use of theft-detection devices.

“One of the things we’d like to expedite is the introduction of facial recognition technology systems, which can share data about shoplifters”, he said. “We are also thinking in terms of efforts to nip in the bud sales of stolen items by enlisting the cooperation of the police, Internet auction sites, second-hand market applications and parcel delivery firms”.