Retail theft increases in Victoria: The most common stolen items revealed

man counting cash

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted February 09, 2024

Is your shop security adequate? Find out what thieves are most likely to shoplift, and effective ways to help protect your retail business from being burgled.

Victorian retailers and small business owners are being urged to stay vigilant and prioritise the security of their staff, equipment and inventory, as new data from Crime Statistics Victoria reveals a big rise in shoplifting and burglary-related offences. 

28,579 retail thefts, burglaries, and breaking and entering offences were recorded in Victoria for the year ending September 2023, a 36.9 per cent increase compared to the previous year of 20,874 offences. 

Neighbourhood Watch spokesperson Bambi Gordon indicated that prevailing economic conditions and the cost-of-living crisis meant that “retailers that sell liquor, groceries and clothes [currently] have a much higher chance of being hit by burglars.” 

The dramatic rise in burglaries underlines the importance of proactive security measures for retailers and small business owners, including locks and security cameras, in addition to having adequate business insurance coverage in place.

woman stealing clothing

Clothing and accessories are often targeted for theft. Image: Getty

Most stolen items from small business retailers 

1. Cash 

Money remains a prime target for burglars due to its liquidity and inability to be traced, with 13.4 per cent of all reported retail thefts by Crime Statistics Victoria relating to physical cash. 

Retailers are recommended to implement secure cash-handling procedures, and to consider investing in cash management systems like safes to mitigate risk. 

Gordon also recommends installing a reliable security system with surveillance cameras both inside and outside a retail premises, and to “display signs indicating the presence of security systems and that cash is not kept on the premises.”

2. Cigarettes and liquor

As smaller items that may be easier to conceal, cigarettes and liquor are attractive shoplifting targets for opportunistic thieves, making up 12.53 per cent of all thefts recorded in Victoria in 2023. 

Ensuring your store is brightly lit for staff to monitor can help deter shoplifters. Even when closed, “ensure that the exterior of your business is well-lit and use motion sensor lights that activate with movement for the interior,” Gordon advises. 

As well as surveillance systems, it is recommended for retailers to secure these items in locked storage areas to deter theft.

3. Personal property  

According to Neighbourhood Watch, personal property can encompass a variety of items, including “Point of Sale systems, office stationery, raw materials, and tools.”  

Implementing comprehensive security measures can help with deterring opportunistic theft and protecting your business. 

Rounding out the list of the most common items that are stolen included food and snacks, clothing, and soft drinks.


security camera and smartphone

Having security and surveillance equipment in businesses and homes can help to deter thieves. Image: Supplied

How to help deter burglars and shoplifters from opportunistic retail theft

There are preventive measures retailers and small business owners can take to help prevent theft from businesses, stores and assets:

Keep your premises locked up

It is important to stay vigilant with your small business to help keep it safe and secure.

Make sure doors and windows are locked when no one is present, that you have awareness of who has access to keys and codes, and that these are regularly updated with staff turnovers or unauthorised access. 

If you need to change the locks, contact a qualified locksmith.

Install a reliable security system and sensor lights

According to Crime Statistics Victoria, there were 5,245 breaking and entering/burglary offences targeting retailers in the year ending September 2023, an increase of 28.2 percent from 2022. 

Consider installing surveillance cameras inside and outside your premises. Other technology, such as 24/7 monitoring with smartphone integration, alarm systems, and real-time mobile alerts with set timers in place, can help deter criminal activity. 

Theft can be deterred by keeping the exterior well-lit, and through the use of motion sensor lights inside that activate with movement to help enhance security.

Use clear signage and empty window displays

As well as stating that no cash is on the premises, clearly indicate the presence of security systems to deter thieves from targeting your retail store.

Ensure you remove valuables from view (such as jewellery or expensive liquor) to deter opportunistic break-ins. 

Develop an emergency response plan

It's important to have a well-defined plan in case of theft or security breaches. 

Gordon recommends training staff to “develop and regularly practise an emergency response plan, including actions to take in the event of theft.” 

This may include having a hidden emergency call button, knowing what to say or do in the event of a break in or other form of contact with a burglar, and who to contact in the aftermath, including store owners and relevant business insurance contacts.

Woman locking up her store

Take time to ensure all entry points to your store are locked when your business is closed. Image: Getty

Proactive community engagement

Gordon reminds businesses not to underestimate the power of community in helping to collectively mitigate the risk of retail theft

“Get to know your business neighbours,” she says. “Engaging with your local business community can be a powerful preventive measure. When people come together as a community, they not only feel safer; they are safer.” 

Neighbourhood Watch recommends watching out for neighbouring businesses in your community by:

  • Establishing connections with neighbouring businesses.
  • Creating communication channels, such as private Facebook Groups or WhatsApp, to share information and report suspicious activities.
  • Forming a Neighbourhood Watch Business Group, where you can develop shared strategies to enhance the overall security of the business community.

“Consider collaborating with neighbouring businesses for mutual support and strategies,” says Gordon. “Stay in touch, keep an eye out for one another and report any suspicious behaviour to police.”

Check your business insurance coverage

Insurance cover suited to retailers can help to cover a shop in case of theft of stock, contents, equipment, and cash on premises. 

Optional covers tailored to businesses, such as additional cover for portable property including business mobile phones and laptops, can help protect against financial loss. Exclusions apply. 


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