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Tiffany Fumiko Tay
The Straits Times
8 April 2017
Milk powder tins, cans of abalone, liquor and even razor blades - these are the items most commonly nicked from supermarket shelves, according to major chains.
Dairy Farm, which runs the Cold Storage, Giant and Jasons MarketPlace supermarkets, said the most expensive item it has seen vanish is an electric scooter priced at over $800. A $250 bottle of premium vinegar was also stolen from one of its stores earlier this year.
Supermarkets told The Straits Times they have raised security in recent years to clamp down on shoplifting.
Overall, shop theft cases saw a slight drop last year, with 3,906 reported cases - compared with 3,940 in 2015 - according to police statistics.
Dairy Farm, however, experienced a 15 per cent increase in theft cases at its supermarkets last year and nabbed 1,042 shoplifters, up from 958 the year before.
To avoid detection, shoplifters conceal items in bags and personal shopping trolleys or pretend to scan items at self-checkout stations before leaving without paying, said a Dairy Farm spokesman.
It has introduced measures to tackle the problem, including deploying uniformed "loss-prevention" officers and installing cameras and monitors at self-checkout stations. Stores also share alerts when known shoplifters are sighted.
The spokesman added that milk powder is one of the most commonly stolen items due to its high resale value - the average price of a 900g tin of infant formula has almost doubled over the last decade to $56.06.
Last month, a housewife was jailed for four months for stealing 80 tins of milk powder worth $5,676 from supermarkets, while a 34-year-old man was arrested for his suspected involvement in a series of supermarket milk powder thefts.
At Sheng Siong, employees trained in identifying possible shoplifters don vests bearing the words "ShopWatch. May I help you?" for a more visible security presence in its 43 stores.
The initiative, a partnership with the police, helped to reduce thefts by 20 per cent over the last two years.
Prime Supermarket, which is also part of the ShopWatch Community Safety and Security Programme, said its proactive approach and collaborations with neighbourhood police centres have helped to reduce shop thefts.
FairPrice said that while it has had no noticeable trend in shop thefts, all incidents of alleged theft are referred to the police.
Minimarts that The Straits Times spoke to said they rely mainly on the vigilance of its shopkeepers. Some said they see as low as one to two cases of theft a year.
Mr Henry Ong, who co-owns a minimart in Toa Payoh, said most of his customers are regulars who live in the area.
The 55-year-old said: "Sometimes, I catch kids stealing sweets, but I just warn them not to do it again. We are all neighbours here."