This is emboldening thieves, who feel safe in the knowledge that their fellow criminals at SAPOL won’t do anything.
As a result, levels of shoplifting are skyrocketing. The Advertiser recently interviewed 20 store owners from across South Australia, and each expressed their concerns over the increase in shoplifting.
The owner of IGA Morphett Vale, who only wanted be known as John, explained that he was faced with a 20 per cent increase in shoplifting in the last six months.
“We ban them, warn them and if it’s young kids, we talk to the parents. If we called the police every time, we would never get a look at,” he said.
A staff member at On The Way Convenience on King William Street in the CBD, who did not want to be named, said that anti-social behaviour from shoplifters had become such an issue they could now only hire males.
“The owner now only likes to hire male staff because the last girl we hired got scared by someone getting aggressive and never came back,” he said.
“We don’t call the police anymore because the owner’s son would press the panic button too much so they just don’t respond to this location anymore.”
It’s the lack of police help which many store owners say has driven them to take the law in their own hands – printing off CCTV images and placing them in windows, in the store or even on social media.
It’s an approach that has been taken by Drakes for the past few years, with director John-Paul Drake posting videos naming and shaming thieves on social media.
In the last financial year, the South Australian supermarket chain has seen a 236 per cent increase in reported shop theft, which is costing the business a staggering $10 million a year.
SA Police stated that publicly identifying suspected shoplifters, be that on social media or in store with printed pictures, should be approached with caution.
“We encourage business owners to report shop theft to police on every occasion,” said a SA Police spokesperson, apparently without any hint of irony. “CCTV is a valuable tool to assist the investigation and identify offenders.”
“Police only release CCTV to the public if we are not able to identify the suspect through other means and ensure the release complies with evidentiary requirements. Businesses should seek advice from police before releasing CCTV so as not to jeopardise criminal proceedings.”
This was echoed by Tony Kerin, the chair of Law Society SA’s criminal law committee, who stated that a wall of shame or similar styles of self-policing aren’t illegal but aren’t always “very helpful”.
It’s a pity the police are even less helpful.
Store operators, like Mount Gambier Foodland manager Sam Jain, feel the wall of shame approach is the only way to defend themselves against a rising crime wave, as official reporting procedures take more time than the stolen goods are worth.
“The process is very difficult for supermarket managers. You have to call them, make a report, then go down to the station and make a statement, give them footage, wait to see if they need you to come down to court. It’s a lot,” he said.
“I once had a lady take about $30 worth of goods, it took three hours to report it.”
Mount Gambier Foodland is targeted by thieves multiple times a day, costing the business thousands of dollars every month.
“There are people working hard to make ends meet, like our staff,” said Mr Jain. “Stealing just makes it harder for everyone to be able to make ends meet, it is not a solution.”
When asked by Channel 7 if he was concerned any of those identified in his Instagram posts were suffering homelessness or mental health issues, John-Paul Drake said Drakes Supermarkets donates millions of dollars to charitable organisations “that know how to use this money and are far better equipped to give people in need these sort of services.”
“We are not a charitable organisation, we are a business. We are a family business.”
“We do give plenty of money to charity to help those people.”
He said the people in the videos are alleged repeat offenders and the thievery problem “appears to be getting far worse”.