Author Alana Cook
Published September 2023
Report Type Bureau Brief No. BB168
Subject Theft / Property crime
Keywords Retail theft, Crime statistics

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As with many property crimes, incidents of retail theft fell significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since October 2021, however, retail theft offences have been steadily increasing, up 47.5% year-on-year to June 2023. This paper considers the increase in retail theft up to June 2023 focusing on the regions where retail theft is increasing, what items is being stolen and from where, and who appears to be responsible. Findings show:
• The sharp increase in retail theft following the removal of pandemic related restrictions has brought retail theft volumes back to equivalence with pre-pandemic figures in both Greater Sydney and Regional NSW. The absence of an increase in theft reports beyond what was reported prior to the pandemic suggests the upward trend reflects a return to pre-pandemic offending levels. The trend does not support emerging external factors, such as the cost-of-living crisis, driving an increase in this offence.
• The most frequently reported stolen item in retail theft is liquor, including bourbon, whiskey, and vodka (stolen in 37% of incidents), followed by clothing (22%). Retail theft of personal items, such as perfume and cosmetics, has declined in the past five years (stolen in 13% of incidents).
• Locations recording the biggest increase in steal from retail incidents over the past five years are licenced premises and general wholesalers. Department or clothing stores and chemists have reported the largest decreases.
• $440 was the average value of items stolen in retail theft incidents in 2022/23.
• Almost half of all retail theft offenders are aged 30 to 39 years but after accounting for population, young people aged 14 to 17 years had the highest rate of involvement with NSW Police.