Some Geraldton retailers ‘blase’ on shoplifting

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Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian
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Camera IconFile image.WA News Credit: WA News

Retail industry leaders have welcomed a tough stance by Geraldton courts on shoplifting but have concerns businesses may be becoming complacent about the issue.

The courts are coming down firmly on convicted shoplifters, adopting a “you steal, you pay more” approach.

In recent proceedings, offenders have been dealt big fines — two, three or four times the value of goods stolen — and also told to pay back businesses what they owe.

In one case, a man and woman who stole more than $500 worth of goods from Geraldton stores were fined $1400, and also ordered to compensate the businesses.

The woman tearfully told Magistrate Chris Miocevich she could not afford to save enough money for the compensation, despite having been given time by the court to do so.

But Mr Miocevich was having none of it.

“That means you can’t afford to steal,” he said. “I would have considered a suspended fine, but this is going to end up costing you more money.

“It would have been cheaper if you just bought the items.”

In another case, Mr Miocevich ordered a shoplifter to take six weeks to save to pay $2000 compensation to a security guard he injured at Northgate Shopping Centre.

Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Joanne Fabling welcomed the courts’ stance but is concerned some retailers may be becoming blase by not reporting thefts to police.

Geraldton Courthouse.
Camera IconGeraldton Courthouse. Credit: Gavin Box, The Geraldton Guardian

“I watched it happen one day at a store in Geraldton and said to the staff member ‘do you realise that person is shoplifting?’and the response was a shrug of the shoulders,” she said.

“It’s almost as if people have come to expect it, but it doesn’t make the task easier when police are trying to combat stealing.”

Ms Fabling said shoplifting was not unique to Geraldton.

“It’s a massive issue all over Australia, which is why big supermarkets are upgrading security at self-checkout areas,” she said.

The head of advocacy group Geraldton Retail Industry Alliance Steeve Poligadu, praised the work of police and the courts but also called for research to address underlying causes.

“It’s great that perpetrators are being brought to justice and being held accountable,” he said.

“Some might say not enough is being done, but it is really good that they are doing something to address its impact.

“But I do think we need to go to the source for long-term, sustainable solutions by finding out what is causing it and then addressing it.”

Geraldton Police Station officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Jason Scragg said police were working with retailers to try to combat the problem and he encouraged businesses to report thefts.

He said he was keen to have a visible police presence in the CBD wherever possible to meet with retailers and deter would-be thieves.

He also encouraged businesses to contact police for advice on how store layout could help minimise shoplifting.

Sen. Sgt Scragg agreed with Mr Poligadu a community-wide response was needed.

“The more heads that can get together to tackle retail crime, the better that we’ll all be,” he said. “I’m all for getting the crime rate down.”

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