The Netherlands: Shoplifting on the rise due to high inflation


The Living Force
Source: Shoplifting at highest level for eight years as inflation drives up prices -

Shoplifting at highest level for eight years as inflation drives up prices

February 21, 2023

Shoplifting increased by 25% last year following the end of lock-down last year to reach its highest level for eight years.

Police recorded 40,000 incidents in 2022, the most since 2015. Retail specialists said last year’s rapid inflation was partly to blame as people increasingly struggled to afford essential items.

‘We see a growth in the number of thefts across the board, it’s not a single group of thieves,’ Martijn Wildeboer of the Center for Crime Prevention and Safety told (in Dutch; registration required).

‘We think more people are getting into a constrained financial position, as a result of which they feel compelled to resort to theft,’ he said.

Shop owners say the figures are the tip of the iceberg because many small thefts go unreported, as the time and effort involved in reporting them to police is not worth it.

But around two-thirds of last year’s complaints came via a handling agency, Soda, which charges businesses €40 to take on the process of reporting shop thefts and recovering damages.

Soda’s founder, Arie van Os, said (in Dutch): ‘It’s a load of hassle for a bottle that costs €10 and they think the police won’t do anything anyway.’

The wider use of self-scan checkouts may have exacerbated the problem, as shoppers can easily slip extra items into their bags without paying, while the lockdown itself has eroded the relationship between staff and customers.

‘Stealing has got easier,’ Wildeboer said. ‘There are people who walk out with full trolleys without paying, sometimes helped by others who open the barrier for them.’ ‘

Staff had to enforce strict rules during the pandemic and things got totally out of hand,’ added Jacqueline Twerda of the CNV union. ‘That aggression still hasn’t completely gone away.

‘Some people get angry because a special offer is no longer valid, others because staff want to check their bags.’

Dutch coverage:
Inflation prompts citizens to shoplift

Article by Editorial - Yesterday at 19:14

Last year, police recorded 40,000 shoplifting incidents, a quarter more than in lock-down year 2021. The decline in shoplifting that began in 2015 was completely reversed in one fell swoop. According to retailers, the increase is due to customers' financial problems caused by increased energy costs and inflation.

"We are seeing an increase in shoplifting across the country," a police spokesman told the Financieele Dagblad. And that while three-quarters of shoplifting incidents go unreported because it costs shopkeepers too much time and effort. "The growth of the number of thefts we see across the board, it is not one group of perpetrators," says Martijn Wildeboer of the Center for Crime Prevention and Safety (CCV). "The problem is getting out of hand."

Shopkeepers and researchers share the same suspicion. "We think more people have found themselves in a dire financial situation, so they feel compelled to resort to theft," Wildeboer said. Inflation and increased energy costs already led to demand at food banks never being as high as it is now. Stealing to eat appears to be the only way out for some.


In France, the same issues are at play. Shoplifting rose 14% in 2022, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Inflation on food ran up 13.2% last year, dairy prices by 16.9% and meat prices by 14%. Faced with these increases, the temptation for French people to steal food has also grown. Franceinfo collected the testimonies of 4 of them (under fictitious names).

"I never thought I would come to this," says 21-year-old student Nabiya. She hasn't eaten meat or fish for months because of inflation. She puts a pear in her bag, or a can of tuna, a can of beans or tomato paste. Nadiya was financially independent thanks to a part-time job and could get by on a budget of €150. Not any more. She joins the hundreds of students in line for the food aid distribution. Those receive fresh fruits and vegetables. But no dairy, meat or fish, nor canned food. Those who want that still have to go to the supermarket. And there they steal for lack of money.

65-year-old François says he steals 2 or 3 kilos of fruits and vegetables a week from the supermarket in his small town in Picardy. He is a "working poor" with his own business. But he had to pay back premium arrears accumulated during the covid-19 pandemic. And his electricity bill went from €20 to €57. He no longer turns on the heating. A kilo of apples for €5.95 is priceless to him.

24-year-old Julie, almost graduated as a lawyer, also steals. Temporarily. She leaves the queue at the food distribution to "those who need it more. There are many migrants or foreigners at the food bank, and I know they can't steal, and I don't risk being deported." So she steals fruits and vegetables, spices, sauces that are a little expensive "to alternate tomato sauce," bread or nuts.

Or take Gabriel, the Bordean student with vocational training who is "torn between the shame of stealing and the fear of inconveniencing his parents." Gabriel: "When I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I can't help it."

Restos du cœur

France's food banks, called Restos du cœur, are also seeing unprecedented growth. Nationally, the number of people taken in increased by 12% between April and November 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Since November, the increase is even 18%. "I am not surprised, I am deeply convinced that even old people start stealing," said Jacques Heitz, coordinator of the Restos du cœur. When people no longer have money in their accounts, we know they won't make it unless they steal."

Translated with (free version)
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