Supermarkets see more shoplifters amid outbreak; most are regular customers
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Supermarkets see more shoplifters amid outbreak; most are regular customers

Guards say culprits mainly say they’re not able to make ends meet after layoffs; most commonly stolen items have been canned goods, pasta

A shopper walks past empty shelves where bread is normally displayed in a supermarket, March 15, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A shopper walks past empty shelves where bread is normally displayed in a supermarket, March 15, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Security guards at supermarkets have noticed a significant increase in shoplifting attempts since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

Security guards in the country’s south and center told Channel 12 Wednesday that the thefts could cause tens of millions of shekels in damages to the supermarket networks.

One security guard told the channel that he had caught more than 20 shoplifters in the last two weeks alone. He added that most of the culprits were regular customers, who have been unable to make ends meet as much of the country’s economy has been brought to a standstill.

Over 600,000 Israelis have filed for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the month after being placed on unpaid leave.

Another guard, from the Negev area, recalled to Channel 12 how he caught a longtime customer on the store’s security cameras Sunday as he walked in with a down coat and began stuffing hand soap, disposable gloves, pasta and a bag of dried fruit inside.

He wobbled over to the cash register and paid for some fruit and vegetables in his basket and walked out the store.

Israelis line up outside Rami Levy supermarket in Ashdod on March 14, 2020 (Flash90)

“This is a customer who has been shopping at the store for more than ten years. We are already friends,” said the security guard, who waited until the man walked outside to avoid stopping him in front of other people.

“Even before I started to check him, the customer burst into tears,” the security guard said. “He apologized, asking for forgiveness. He claimed he had been fired two weeks ago from the restaurant where he worked and that the financial situation in his house had been very difficult. He had not yet received unemployment benefits, his wife is ill and he does not know how he will make it through Passover with his two children.”

Another security guard said that rather than calling police immediately as he typically does in such situations, since the outbreak he has asked the shoplifting customers to simply return or pay for the items, warning that the next time he catches them he’ll have to call the authorities.

The security guard lamented that for every shoplifter he’s managed to catch, there have been five or seven who managed to get away.

“Regardless, it is unpleasant to have to search the bodies of regular customers, particularly during these difficult days,” said one security guard in Ashkelon.

According to Channel 12, the ten most common items that security guards have seen shoppers attempt to steal in recent weeks have been canned goods, followed by pasta, deli meats, frozen goods, plasticware, cleaning supplies, bread, pre-made soups, dried fruit and snacks.

A police spokesman said officers were “focusing on implementing the new orders and measures for public safety after the government decision was made,” referring to new emergency virus measures.

“There is an increase in police officers that are patrolling the streets including Border police and units on mobilized in order to implement every step to keep people safe,” he said.

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