Why Shoplifting Suspects SHOULD NOT be Chased Inside the Store

This happened in 2006 in a grocery store located in Virginia. The case went to trial to trial in 2011 where the Jury found for the Plaintiff and awarded her a sizable 6-figure amount of money. The Jury verdict and monetary award was appealed to the Virginia State Supreme Court where the Court denied a hearing on the case, effectively upholding the Jury verdict and award.

The facts of the case are:

  • The customer entered the store’s premises to shop.
  • The store had no loss prevention officers assigned. Loss Prevention consisted of a “team” that “roamed” the region where attention was given to the “higher shrink” stores.
  • A Department Manager, in the back of the store, observed a male put a can of soda and some chicken wings in his coat.
  • The Department Manager walked up behind the shoplifter, without the shoplifter noticing and immediately placed his hands on the shoplifter’s shoulders.
  • The Department Manager did not say anything other than, “I want my chicken wings back.”
  • The shoplifter then slipped out of his jacket and ran down the aisle, leaving the jacket, soda and chicken wings on the aisle floor.
  • The Manager gave immediate chase pursuing, close behind, the shoplifter up and down the aisles.
  • When the shoplifter was finally headed towards the front exit he ran into and pushed the female against an aisle gondola causing her severe injuries that required multiple surgeries.
  • The shoplifter was eventually detained outside the store.
  • The shoplifter was charged with theft.

There were several other factors that entered into this case:

  • The retailer expected its store management employees to apprehend shoplifters.
  • The retailer provided no training to employees, other than Loss Prevention staff, in the detection and apprehension of shoplifters.
  • The store had a numerical “code” to be announced over the public address system when a potential shoplifting suspect was detected, but none of the management staff, during deposition, could agree on what that code was, causing further confusion.

Curtis Baillie was the Ad-Hoc Chairman and Co-Author of the IAPSC committee that reviewed, updated and republished the retail security industry Best Practice: "Detention of Shoplifting Suspects by Loss Prevention and Security Personnel"  This Best Practice may be purchased through the IAPSC.

The retail security industry Best Practice guideline recommends not chasing shoplifting suspects in the store:
“Loss Prevention agents or security persons normally do not "chase" suspects by running inside a store or in shopping centers that are occupied by customers."

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