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'Something gets stolen every week': Chinatown gift store owner puts up over 20 photos of suspected shoplifters

'Something gets stolen every week': Chinatown gift store owner puts up over 20 photos of suspected shoplifters
A gift shop in Chinatown has resorting to naming and shaming shoplifters by displaying their photos on their storefront.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

To deter potential shoplifters, a gift shop owner in Chinatown has resorted to naming and shaming those who nicked items from her store. 

The store at Trengganu Street, called Wow, recently went viral on Xiaohongshu for displaying more than 20 photos of people who allegedly stole from the shop. 

An unnamed employee at the shop told Shin Min Daily News that theft has been a persistent problem since the shop opened last November. 

Both tourists and locals have been caught on camera taking items without paying, she said. 

"Something gets stolen every week. Sometimes, it even happens twice or thrice a day. The people whose photos we publish are locals and repeat offenders," she added. 

Last month, a female tourist who looked to be in her 20s made away with a pair of glasses. She had allegedly swiped two pairs from the shelf and concealed one inside a hat near the counter.

She then told the shop owner that she didn't want the second pair and left the shop with the other one. 

Another incident occurred during Chinese New Year. An elderly woman who was pushing a cart entered the shop around closing time. 

The shop employee said: "She kept looking around and I saw her lingering where the portable fans were displayed before she left. I looked at the CCTV footage and realised she stole two pairs of glasses. 

"If I wasn't there, she might have stolen the portable fans too."

To cover her tracks, the elderly woman also messed up the glasses display. 

"We're just doing business, I don't know why we have to endure this. We've caught too many [thieves], it's very tiring," lamented the employee.

Wall of shame

The store's owner, surnamed Lei, said she put up photos of the shoplifters to alert members of the public to help catch the culprits. 

The losses from the stolen goods add up to about $100 each month, she added.

"These photos were published before Chinese New Year, because there are more shoppers during that period. We hope members of the public will be more vigilant [about thieves]." 

Lei revealed that she has been questioned about the authenticity of the photos. 

"Many people have told me that we're lying, saying how can there be people stealing all these small items, that it's not worth going to jail for."

She maintained that she has evidence of people stealing spectacles, necklaces and bracelets from her shop. 

Shopowners must state if there are CCTVs in stores 

Cory Wong, director of Invictus Law Corporation told Shin Min Daily News that store owners have to inform customers if CCTVs are installed in their shops. This can be done by putting up notices in the premises. 

Commenting on Lei's tactics to deter shoplifters, Wong said: "I can understand that they want to warn members of the public, but they might be crossing a line by referring to the people [in the photos] as thieves." 

There were 3,939 shop theft cases in 2023 — a 21 per cent jump from 2022 where there were from 3,244 cases. Shop theft accounted for 19.7 per cent of total physical crime cases that year, according to the police's annual crime brief 2023.

About 68 per cent of the cases occurred at retail outlets such as department stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, minimarts and convenience stores.

The goods typically stolen included food and beverage items, alcoholic drinks, personal care products, apparels/accessories, cosmetics, and medical or health supplements.

In a statement to the public in April regarding shop theft in other retail chains, the police said: "The public is strongly advised against committing shop theft. With the prevalence of technology such as CCTV cameras, you will be caught eventually even though you manage to leave the store with the stolen items."

The police also encourages all retailers to get onboard the Shop Theft Awareness for Retailers (STAR) programme, which aims to analyse stores' vulnerabilities to shop theft, and determine crime prevention measures to be adopted.

Theft is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

ALSO READ: Caught on camera: Woman steals mirror from Neil Road cafe by wrapping it in jacket

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