When is it theft? When is it a robbery?

A simple shoplifting can develop into a robbery if the situation develops and the shoplifter becomes threatening or aggressive. You must be shure who can detain a shoplifter - and when.

Example: Security guards in the shop

At a staff meeting, Peter, the head of department, mentions the increasing number of thefts at the shop. Gitte, one of the employees, says that once or twice she has seen shoplifters in action during her shift, but she didn’t have the courage to do anything in the actual moment, because, despite her training, she feels insecure about how to deal with such situations in real life.

Peter says that, from now on, security guards will be working with the shop, and that all the employees have to do is contact these security guards if they see anything suspicious. So, they should not intervene themselves. Due to the increasing number of thefts, more surveillance will also be installed at the shop.

Gitte is pleased with the initiatives and already feels better about dealing with possible shoplifting.

When is it theft? When is it a robbery?

  • Theft: It’s theft – or shoplifting – when someone takes products or other items from the shop and leaves without paying for them and the situation does not develop into violence or into a situation where the thief threatens to use violence.
  • Robbery: If the thief uses violence (for example, pushing or hitting) or threatens to use violence, the situation becomes a robbery. For example, it’s a robbery if a person demands money at the cash register and threatens to beat up the staff if they don’t comply.

A simple shop theft can turn into a robbery if the situation develops, and the thief behaves threateningly or aggressively. In Denmark, robberies in shops rarely involve knives or other weapons. Typically, the robber will keep to verbal threats or will grab a random item from the shop and use it to threat violence.

When can you detain a shoplifter?

Detention is when you approach a suspected shoplifter and ask the person to come with you. A thief may only be detained if:

  • You have seen the thief take the product.
  • You have seen the thief leave the sales area and the thief has passed the last cash register/point of sale, and therefore is about to leave the shop.
  • You are certain that the stolen product has not been paid for and the thief still has it.

Who can detain a shoplifter?

The management of the individual shop or chain decides who can detain a suspected shoplifter.

  • In some shops, only employees with management responsibility can detain a thief.
  • Other shops may decide that all employees can detain a thief.

In any event, those detaining a shoplifter must be properly prepared for the task and trained in dealing with a potential conflict.

The employer/management is responsible for ensuring that employees are instructed in how to address (and possibly detain) a shoplifter. It’s OK not to get involved in the specific situation if you don’t feel psychologically or physically prepared.

Last revised at Thursday, August 17, 2023