Preventing shop theft

How to prevent shop theft, and what to do if there has been a theft in your store.

Key crime prevention tips

To prevent shop theft:

  • remember that good customer service is a deterrent
  • watch for suspicious behaviour 
  • secure cash handling and stock control
  • secure the store
  • consider the store layout.

Theft prevention checklist

Good customer service is a deterrent

  • Acknowledge customers when they enter the store.
  • Ensure empty hangers and excess stock are removed from racks and shelves.
  • Check the number of items taken in and out of changing rooms.

Watch for suspicious behaviour

  • Keep customers in view.
  • Pay attention to customers who appear nervous or distracted.
  • Pay attention to customers wearing loose or bulky clothing, especially in hot weather. 
  • Pay attention to customers who remain in the store for lengthy periods of time. 
  • Pay attention to customers who loiter outside before shopping. 
  • Question people in restricted areas, stockrooms or stairways. Check identification of tradespersons.
  • Inspect prams, shopping trolleys, boxes and bags before customers leave the store. 
  • Keep a record of customers who return items.

Secure cash handling and stock control 

  • Never leave cash registers unattended. 
  • Limit the cash kept on site and in the register. 
  • Ensure customers cannot access behind the counter. 
  • Do not count cash in front of customers. 
  • Install security tags on items and barriers at the exits. 
  • Where possible, lock expensive and portable goods in security cabinets, or keep them away from exits. 

Secure the store

  • Secure all exits, for example install good quality locks, solid doors and window bars. 
  • Ensure fire doors or doors to staff areas remain closed and locked.
  • Install a monitored alarm. 
  • Install sensors or alarms to alert staff to a customer entering the store. Electronic doors achieve the same. 
  • Check all doors are locked at close of business. 
  • Make sure no one is hiding in the store at closing time. 
  • Install CCTV with a view of customers entering the store, and customers paying. Use stickers or signs to show that the store has cameras. Ensure staff know how to save and download CCTV footage. 
  • Show customers they are on camera by having the camera feed visible. 
  • Install an alarm, which can be discreetly activated. Options include a button near the cash draw or activation by foot or knee.

Consider the store layout

  • Ensure the store is well-lit.
  • Ensure staff can see over shelves and clothing racks.
  • Install mirrors to help staff to see obscured floor space. 
  • Keep store windows clear, so staff can see the street. 

Other things you can do 

  • Roster at least two staff members per shift, so the store is never unattended. 
  • Hire store security and/or loss prevention officers. 
  • Regularly clean surfaces to make it easier for police to take fingerprints. 
  • Use scenarios to train staff on what to do in a robbery. Visit responding to a robbery or armed robbery for guidance.
  • Keep witness description forms near the cash register.
  • Mark exit doors with coloured height markers.
  • Join your local traders’ group.

What to do if there has been a theft in your store

If there has been a theft in your store:

  • tell your supervisor or manager.
  • as a witness, report the offence rather than waiting for your manager to report it. 

Report it

For emergencies, to report a crime in progress, or for immediate police attendance, call Triple Zero (000).

For non-emergencies, call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or report online at Police Assistance Line and Online Reporting.

If required, report the incident to WorkSafe Victoria on 13 23 60.

Report anonymously to Crime Stoppers by:


Download a printable checklist:

Preventing shop theft checklist – print only version
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