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05/31/2022

Survey: Less retail thieves caught but more dollars recovered in 2021

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Survey participants recovered over $240 million from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2021.

Shoplifting apprehensions decreased 16.2% in 2021, but the total amount of dollars recovered from shoplifters and dishonest employees — including apprehended and non-apprehended individuals — jumped 30.7%.

That’s one of the findings of Jack L. Hayes International's 34th Annual Retail Theft Survey, which reviewed 200,000 shoplifters and dishonest employee apprehensions in 2021 by 25 large retail companies. The participating retailers apprehended 204,404 shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2021, down 12.8% from 2020.

The participating retailers in the survey recovered more than $240 million from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2021, up 9.9% from 2020. The dollars recovered from shoplifters where no apprehension was made was $339 million, up an “astounding” 51.1% in 2021, according to the survey.

Shoplifting recoveries without an apprehension were driven in 2021 by multiple retailers focusing more on recoveries — get the thief to drop the merchandise and leave the store — and less on actual apprehension of the thieves,” explained Mark R. Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes, a loss prevention and inventory shrinkage control firm.

Several issues led to this re-focus in 2021, Doyle added, including the pandemic environment (staying six feet away from customers and thieves), staff safety (shoplifters are getting more violent so some retailers moved away from apprehensions) and lower/less police response, with police not responding to some shoplifter calls.

“As a result, stores focused on getting product back instead of making apprehension),” Doyle said.

Average case values increased substantially in 2021, according to the report. The value for total thefts rose 26.0%, while the value increased 26.6% for shoplifting and rose 22.6% for dishonest employees.

Highlights from the survey include:

• Shoplifters: 166,745 shoplifters were apprehended in 2021, down 16.2%; more than $196 million was recovered from these shoplifters, up 6.1%.

Shoplifter Recoveries (no apprehension): Dollars recovered from shoplifters where no apprehension was made ($339 million) increased 51.1% in 2021.

• Dishonest Employees: 37,659 employees were apprehended in 2021, up 6.0%; and over $44 million was recovered from these employees in 2021, up 29.9%.

• Recovery Dollars: Participants recovered over $240 million from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2021, up 9.9% from 2020.

[Read More: COVID-19 dampens retail theft losses, not criminal greed]