Shoplifting can be a cause of massive financial loss in a business if it occurs repetitively. It is also something that almost every retailer has fallen victim to at some point, whether they caught the culprit or picked up discrepancies when stock take was performed

The question is what happens if you catch a shoplifter red-handed? Do they get arrested immediately? Can you prevent that shoplifter from entering your store again? Is shoplifting seen as a minor offence in South Africa or as something more serious?

In this article, we will answer these questions and provide more clarity on the process following a shoplifter being caught stealing your merchandise. 

What Constitutes as Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is a common form of theft that consists of a thief, pretending to be a customer, taking merchandise and leaving the shop with this merchandise without paying for it. There are many different motivations for shoplifting. Some are motivated by their poverty, others steal to support an addiction, and some are kleptomaniacs (an impulse control disorder that urges a person to steal).

Unfortunately, the motivation behind someone stealing doesn’t help the retailer that is being stolen from and it is important for retailers to know what happens to a shoplifter after they have been caught. 

Shoplifting as a South African Offence

Shoplifting is considered a serious offence in South Africa; however, the severity of the punishment greatly depends on whether the thief is a first-time offender and what the value of the product(s) stolen was. 

Procedure After a Shoplifter Has Been Identified

If a shoplifter has been caught by an employee, manager, owner or security guard, they can perform a citizen’s arrest. They can then prevent the shoplifter from leaving the store until the police arrive. The police will then typically arrest the guilty party and will have to conduct an investigation to gather evidence in order to determine whether the suspect is in fact guilty. Once this evidence has been gathered the suspect will appear in court where it will be decided whether they are guilty or not and what their sentence will be if found guilty.

The police are able to grant bail to the suspect in question, all though this does not always happen.

It should also be mentioned that minors/children cannot be arrested when under the age of 10. Between 10 and 14 they can be arrested if it can be proven that the child does have criminal capacity; however, this does not typically take place. When they have surpassed the age of 14, a minor can be arrested.

What Is the Punishment for Shoplifting in South Africa?

The punishment for shoplifting in South Africa can vary from a fine to a prison sentence. This depends on the severity of the shoplifting that has occurred. 

As always, prevention is better than cure; thus, it is advisable to install security measures that act as a visual shoplifting deterrent. At Milestone, we offer anti-shoplifting systems that prevent shoplifting from occurring and ensure that your stock stays safe and sound. Contact us to find out more about how you can prevent shoplifting from taking place in your retail store.