Prevention of Shoplifting is a crime prevention intervention designed to assess the effect of electronic tagging, uniformed guards, and store redesign on shoplifting in high-theft stores. It was implemented in a group of Dixon and Currys stores in England and Scotland in 1991.
The program was designed in response to an analysis of crime in a group of Dixon and Currys stores. Nine stores were identified as having high shoplifting rates and were selected as either experimental or control sites to test the effectiveness of three different interventions to reduce shoplifting.
Three options were thus chosen to reduce the opportunity to shoplift and to increase the chance of detection: electronic tagging, uniformed guards, and store redesign. The selection of crime prevention methods was guided by rational choice theory, which suggests that individuals weigh the benefits of committing an act against the likely costs.
Store redesign was introduced primarily to reduce the opportunity for shoplifting by making it more difficult. Store manager trainees implemented the store redesign in various ways. In the Bradford, England, location, for instance, the display was changed almost every day. In Glasgow, Scotland, small packs of videotapes—a frequently stolen item—were replaced by larger bundles of tapes and moved from the floor to a more visible location.
The electronic tagging and uniformed guard methods were introduced primarily to have a deterrent effect by increasing the perceived chances of being caught. Electronic tags were designed to trigger an alarm when taken through the doors of the store, which had been equipped with electronic gates. No specific guidelines were given for activities for the uniformed guards.
The study found some behavioral change with some interventions (electronic tagging and store redesign) but not with others (presence of a guard). Moreover, some behavioral changes were short lived while others lasted longer.
Electronic Tagging Outcomes
Electronic tagging led to a significant decrease in shoplifting. Tagging reduced the percentage of stolen items by more than 75 percent in one store and by more than 90 percent in the other store from pretest to posttest. The researchers noted that there were methods that could be used to avoid setting off the alarm, which shoplifters might learn over time, but the reduction in shoplifting was nonetheless maintained for several weeks after electronic tagging was introduced.
Store Redesign Outcomes
Store redesign also led to an immediate significant decrease in shoplifting, but this effect weakened through the follow-up period. It is possible that this result was due to the deterioration of the redesign over time. Store staff continually changed the location of items in an attempt to increase sales, without considering any possible effect on shoplifting.
Uniformed Guards Outcomes
The use of uniformed guards had no impact on shoplifting behavior.