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Surveillance system in a US Army store

The shoplifting ( English shoplifting ) is in volume crime a criminal offense , which as theft of goods of all kinds in stores under penalty is provided.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the number of cases has more than halved and thus fell significantly faster than the number of crimes as a whole . This decline follows the trend that can be observed in all western countries.


As a rule, it is a property offense involving goods of low value, rarely more than 250 euros . Shoplifting accounts for the largest share of inventory differences in stationary retail , especially in self-service shops , to which fraudulent incoming goods inspections and manipulation of price labeling also contribute. Although numerous measures to prevent theft are available (organizational, shop design and personnel measures as well as technical and electronic aids), goods worth around 4 billion euros disappear in German retail every year. Whether and to what extent the countermeasures work depends on many company-specific factors, e.g. B. of type of company , company size , organizational form and clientele, not least of the "psychology of security".


Recorded cases of simple and serious shoplifting in the years 1987–2019 as a frequency number (per 100,000 inhabitants).
Crime code for simple shoplifting: 326 * 00
Crime code for serious shoplifting: 426 * 00.

Shoplifting accounted for one of the largest shares in Germany in 2018 with around 17% of all thefts committed.

If the theft is noticed immediately and the identity of the perpetrator can be determined by specially hired shop detectives, a criminal complaint is usually made . Thefts that are only discovered by checking the inventory, on the other hand, are usually not reported because the injured party does not expect to clarify the act and compensate for their damage. This explains the discrepancy between the high "clear-up rate" of registered shoplifting (92% in Germany, 84.6% in Switzerland) and the very high number of unreported cases .

According to police crime statistics , 325,786 shoplifting were reported in Germany in 2019. Since 1997, the number of shoplifting ads has more than halved. They fell much faster than the total number of crimes , which only fell by 21% in this period. Over the same period, however, the number of serious shoplifting has increased two and a half times. Serious shoplifting only made up 6.5% of all shoplifting in 2019. The pattern of a decrease in the incidence of theft since the early 1990s can be found in all Western countries. It's part of an overall decline in crime .

The trade association Germany assumes an unreported number for shoplifting of "at least 98 percent". The association also sees the phenomenon that more and more traders would refrain from filing a criminal complaint because they did not assume that criminal prosecution would be effective.

Legal issues


In criminology , the victim of shoplifting is a shop, otherwise the theft is directed against other natural persons .

Criminal law

Shoplifting is not an independent offense under criminal law , but a criminological term for the offense of theft . In addition, a trespassing occurs as a matter of fact if the thief clearly enters the business premises with the intention of stealing. As a rule, however, there is a lack of recognizability, since no thief enters a shop in such a way by expressing that he intends to commit a theft in this shop if B. carries a thief apron . Constellations of offenses are also conceivable in which, according to the valuation of the lay sphere , shoplifting, legal fraud , e.g. B. exchange fraud or relabeling fraud, can be assumed. Legally also conceivable, by relabeling or pasting the original label with another price tag, is a forgery of a document , because the goods together with the price tag form a unit of evidence ( Section 267, Paragraph 1, Var. 2 of the Criminal Code (StGB) in fact unity with a possible one Property damage to the individual price tags, should these be damaged (Section 303 StGB).

A theft of low value items occurs if the value is less than € 25 to € 30. In view of the ongoing wage and price development, more recent trends in case law now set the limit at € 50. This regulation affects the majority of all shoplifting. The value limit is not regulated by law, but is based in practice on the general price increase. A few years ago the courts pulled it for 50  DM . According to § 242 , § 248a StGB, in the event of the theft of low-value items, the injured party must file a criminal complaint in due time . If it is missing, this (relative) procedural obstacle can be replaced by the public prosecutor's affirmation of the public interest in prosecution. As a rule, however, the injured party file a criminal complaint, mostly from a value of 10 €.

The constellation of inferiority arose from the earlier violation of mouth robbery, which, unlike theft, only contained a minor threat of punishment .

The penalty for theft is a fine or imprisonment of up to five years. The concrete sentencing in individual cases is based on a number of factors. In particular, shoplifters are often first-time offenders; The proceedings against them are frequently discontinued by the public prosecutor's office - possibly against payment of a supplementary fee, in particular if the perpetrator confesses. Conversely, a prison sentence can, however, against a repeat offender because of a shoplifting certainly be imposed that is not the probation is suspended. However, prison sentences of one or more years are generally not imposed due to the comparatively low damage. Exceptions to this are shoplifting in the context of crime related to acquisitions , if these are classified as commercial thefts, i.e. the perpetrator makes his living or the financing of his drug use from the thefts.

From a purely logical point of view, dodging or fuel fraud are also forms of shoplifting, but they are criminally classified as fraud.

Sanctions and considerations outside of criminal law

The penalty that is imposed by a court or the additional money that is paid to the public prosecutor as part of the suspension of proceedings must not be confused with the “contractual penalty” or “catch bonus” that the department stores concerned usually receive when the crime is discovered demand the shoplifters. With regard to the catch premium, the BGH ruled that a required lump sum must be paid if it is appropriate. The average crime rate and the extent of the thefts play a role in assessing whether the amount is appropriate.

Due to the fact that shoplifting occurs frequently, the damage is mostly minor and the evidence is clear, the possibility of removing shoplifting from the field of criminal offenses and only punishing it as an administrative offense is discussed again and again . This is supported by the potential relief of the judiciary that this entails. On the other hand, the necessary harsher punishment of repeat offenders is not ensured and includes a trivialization of the injustice .

Breach of custody

A shopkeeper has custody of all goods in his shop - including (indirectly) those that are currently in a customer's shopping cart. A breach of custody occurs when a “customer” withdraws this sovereignty from the shopkeeper. Attempted shoplifting can be accepted by the security staff if the “customer” hides the goods - hides them under clothing, hides them in other goods or otherwise prevents the shop staff from seeing and checking them.


In Austria, shoplifting is understood to mean theft in the basic form of § 127 Ö-StGB , especially in self-service facilities and other shops, without qualifying elements such as the value of the stolen items over 5,000 euros, burglary, weapons, robbery, commercial theft or theft are in the context of a criminal organization. The threat of punishment is up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to 360 daily rates. If the value of the stolen goods is higher than 5,000 euros, the penalty range is up to three years, for a value over 300,000 euros from one to ten years.


In Switzerland too, shoplifting is a form of theft that is punishable under Art. 139 CH-StGB . In 2018, the police in Switzerland registered around 112,000 thefts, which corresponds to a decrease of 7.9% compared to the previous year. In the record year 2012, 219,000 thefts were registered. Statistically, this includes break-ins, theft and pickpocketing, but not shoplifting or vehicle theft.

Safety measures

The use of shop detectives and bouncers serves for prevention and repression. Video surveillance is installed in many shops . Calling in the police is voluntary; it is often only required to establish identity . Another technical device is the security of goods with the help of electronic security labels . These trigger a signal tone if unpaid goods are detected at the exit. From a commercial psychological point of view, security measures may be double-edged if z. For example, a poster “We show every thief” is perceived as unnecessarily threatening or price labels that stick too strongly (which prevent price “fraudulent labels”) are perceived as unfriendly to consumers who want to give away the goods without a price label.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e PKS 2019 - time series overview of case tables. Federal Criminal Police Office, accessed on March 30, 2020 .
  2. a b Michael Tonry: Why Crime Rates Are Falling Throughout the Western World, 43 Crime & Just. 1 (2014). P. 5 , accessed on June 6, 2019 (English).
  3. Hans-Otto Schenk: Psychology in trade. 2nd edition Munich / Vienna 2007, pp. 84ff. ISBN 3-486-58379-4
  4. Notices according to StGB - theft. (No longer available online.) Federal Statistical Office , September 16, 2011, archived from the original on December 16, 2012 ; Retrieved March 12, 2012 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Martin U. Müller : Retail: Harder penalties . In: Der Spiegel . Page 67, no. 45 . Spiegel-Verlag, Hamburg, November 3, 2017.

Web links

Wiktionary: shoplifting  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations