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Commercial crime on the rise?

Commercial crime on the rise?

Commercial crime has increased across New Zealand and the Ashburton District has not been exempt from the rise.

According to a report by Retail NZ, commercial crime the worst it has ever been, and cost retailers over $2.6 billion in the last year.

Of the roughly 300 businesses surveyed, 92% had been a victim of retail crime, up from 81% the last time the survey ran in 2017.

The report found that criminals targeting retail outlets were becoming increasingly organised and brazen, with the potential to put retail employees and customers at risk.

Retail NZ said the increase in retail was driven by organised crime, people stealing to fund an addiction, or youth committing destructive acts for notoriety on social media.

Closer to home, police statistics showed that thefts from retail premises jumped by 65% in the last year.

There were 70 recorded retail thefts between September 2021 to August 2022. Fast forward 12 months and the number of retail thefts for the same period hit 116.

However, there was no clear trend over the last four months of available data in the theft from retail premises category, which does not include all commercial crime.

In June there were 16 reported theft from retail premises, up from just one case in June 2022. This July there were 16 reported cases, up one on the previous July. In August cases dropped by two to 14 and in September the number of cases dropped to four, down from nine in September 2022.

Sue Abel from Neighbourhood Support Ashburton said reported burglary, thefts and wilful damage dropped from 80 in July to 77 in August, and 67 in September. Of these, the number involving commercial premises was 28, 24, and 21 respectively.

Most of the commercial cases are theft or shoplifting. She said criminals were often quite brazen and were targeting more expensive items.

"Even if the number of reported crimes is not up, the value of the items stolen is.

"Retail crime is generally high in New Zealand, with 10% of burglars committing 60% of the crime."

Abel said local businesses communicated through a Whatsapp group.

She encouraged businesses to sign up to Auror ( to share intelligence about crimes in the area.

The programme allowed shops to upload photos and descriptions of shoplifters or would be burglars, their direction of travel and any vehicles involved.

She said Auror included facial and licence plate recognition - and set up a trail for police – and cost nothing to join.

Bob McDonald from Health 2000 is part of Ashburton's informal retail group.

He said local businesses has a system in place to support each other.

This included warning other businesses about suspicious behaviour, as well as calling on help.

If a shopkeeper was concerned they could send a message and would quickly have a few additional people in the store. There were more than 100 businesses in the group, he said.

McDonald said the main problem for local stores was renegade kids, but stores also "got hit" around Christmas time when organised crime gangs "do a swoop down the whole South Island".

At the moment crime levels seemed okay, with the peak time for thefts being around 5pm, but he expected crime to ramp up before Christmas.

Acting Senior Sergeant Janine Bowden said there had not been a recent spike in retail crime in the Ashburton District.

However, she said commercial crime usually picked up towards Christmas

Shoppers could assist local retailers by discreetly alerting shopkeepers if they noticed anything unusual or underhand.

Bowden said most of the retail theft in the district was by organised shoplifting groups from out of town.

There was usually one or two people in the shop and one on lookout outside and a car to get away.

Bowden said it was important for shoppers to keep themselves safe and not confront a shoplifter. However, they should take down details including a description of any people involved, any vehicles, and the direction of travel.

Retail Crime Stats

The cost of stolen items is around 53% of the total cost of retail crime - around $1.4bn

The direct costs of prevention accounts for 44% - around $1.1bn

Employee training, assistance, wellbeing and counseling cost 3% - about $0.1bn

Shoplifting was the most common form of retail crime, followed by threatening behaviour, intentional damage, begging and fraud.

Cybercrime was the least prevalent, followed by employee theft.

According to the report, police data shows reported retail crime in New Zealand has increased 115% over the last six years.

By Sharon Davis