Australian Institute of Criminology

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Shoplifting and employee theft unlikely to be reported to police

Media Release

13 February 2003

Small retail businesses are very unlikely to report shoplifting and employee theft to police. A report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that shoplifting accounted for 70 per cent of all incidents of crime experienced but accounted for only 42 per cent of all incidents reported to police.

In a presentation today to the Australian Retailers Association, New South Wales, AIC Director Dr Adam Graycar announced the release of two research papers on crime against small businesses. These papers are part of a project investigating crimes against small businesses, funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department's National Crime Prevention Program. "Small business creates significant wealth in Australia and being victimised diminishes the sector's capacity for wealth creation and diminishes their confidence. It is therefore vital that crimes against the small business sector are thoroughly and rigorously researched", said Dr Graycar.

In addition, from a survey of 3,834 respondents it was found that:

  • Burglary and robbery incidents were substantially more likely to be reported to police than other types of crime - burglary accounted for six per cent of all incidents of crime yet represented 26 per cent of all crimes against small business reported to the police
  • Completed crimes were generally more likely to be reported to police than attempted crimes

Understanding why some crimes are reported to police and others are not is essential for obtaining an accurate picture of crime and for developing effective crime prevention and management strategies. Business proprietors should be encouraged to report all crime. Proprietors claim the main reasons for not reporting include reporting the crime would not achieve anything (42 per cent); the police could not do anything (42 per cent); the incident was not serious enough to report (38 per cent); and the chance of success was slight (37 per cent).