DNA database could help prevent €500m in stock being shoplifted
SEVERAL TDs have expressed concern over the Criminal Justice Bill making its way through the Dail.
The bill proposes to create an Irish DNA database to help identify repeat criminals and find missing people.
Independent TD John Halligan said there was a danger that Ireland could follow the US's example, where in some states it is legal to collect and store DNA from people convicted of low-level crimes like shoplifting.
However, crime statistics show that shoplifting is a massive blight on Irish retailers.
Approximately €500m in stock – the total value of the annual property tax – is shoplifted from Irish retailers every year, according to industry body Retail Ireland.
In a recent survey by the organisation, 82pc of Irish retailers said they had experienced shoplifting in the past year.
"We suspect the reality is even worse," said director Stephen Lynam.
"Shoplifting is almost universal among Irish retailers. The problem has gotten noticeably worse since the beginning of the recession."
He said that shoplifters fall into two broad categories.
"There are people who shoplift for mental health or addictive reasons, who do so compulsively, and we have sympathy for those people.
"And then there are those who shoplift professionally – who steal to order, or in the expectation that they can sell the goods on the black market.
"Anecdotally, we know that groups of thieves will often target whole towns in one go.
"They'll descend on one location, steal huge amounts, and leave," he added. There's more to lose than merely the price of lost stock – crime prevention does not come cheap either.
A study released in August by business body IBEC found that crime prevention measures like CCTV cameras, alarms and security guards cost Irish businesses about €4,200 each in the past year.
Fortunately, there are cheaper measures that retailers can take to reduce their vulnerability too.
Chief among these is a store's layout.
"Expensive and portable objects must never be kept near the door," said Mr Lynam.
"A simple but effective example is the storing of spirits behind the counter at an off-licence, while cheaper products can be kept on the shop floor. Maintaining good lighting also helps."
The presence of gardai is a huge deterrent, but Stephen Lynam says the closure of garda stations hasn't necessarily caused a spike in shoplifting – because the mere existence of a station isn't enough to deter people.
"Having gardai actually walking around the streets is what really matters, particularly after dark.
And it's important that gardai respond quickly to calls, because shoplifters rarely target one store in isolation.
"Chances are, they'll hit multiple outlets," he said.
Retail Ireland is urging businesses to report every shoplifting incident, regardless of the value of the stolen goods.
"The only way we can let the Government know this is a problem is by reporting it, every time," said Mr Lynam.
"It's the least we can do."