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What to Do If You Catch Someone Stealing at Your Store

Have you ever caught someone stealing? It’s a difficult situation to be in, but there are a few things you can do. You can make a citizen’s arrest, call the police, or use facial recognition technology to identify the shoplifter. All these actions come with risks and rewards. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through what to do if you catch someone stealing.

What to Do If You Catch Someone Stealing?

As a retailer or employee, you are legally allowed to make a citizen’s arrest if you catch someone in the act of shoplifting. However, it is generally advised that you do not attempt to apprehend the individual unless absolutely necessary.

What to do if you catch someone stealing? Should you arrest them on the spot? Police warn that citizens should only make arrests in the most extreme of situations.

How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest

Following these 10 steps will ensure that you minimize your risks when making a citizen’s arrest.

1. Make Sure You See the Person Steal the Item.

Confirm that an offense has actually been committed before making a citizen’s arrest. The arrest must also be made at the time of the offense — not later on.

2. Confront the Shoplifter.

Introduce yourself to the shoplifter and show your store ID. Explain that you would like to speak to them about items taken from the store.

3. Escort the Shoplifter to the Store Office.

Shoplifters usually cooperate if you speak in a firm, polite, and confident manner.

4. Weigh the Risks.

When considering whether to make a citizen’s arrest, you should first assess whether the shoplifter poses a danger to any customer or employee in the store. It is important to note that if an employee is injured while carrying out a citizen’s arrest, the employee may have a civil claim for damages against the shop owner, particularly if the employee has not received adequate security training.

5. Use Reasonable Force.

If the shoplifter refuses to come with you to the store office, you can explain why they are being detained and use force if necessary. Reasonable force is any force that a reasonable person in your situation would use. However, what seems reasonable to you may not be seen as such by the courts.

6. Call the Police.

You should contact the police immediately and advise the shoplifter that the authorities are being notified. The individual making the arrest is required to bring the shoplifter to the police as soon as possible so they can be processed according to the law.

7. Ask the Shoplifter to Return the Stolen Items.

If the shoplifter refuses to hand over any property that does not belong to them, you are not allowed to search for their person or any property they have in their possession. If a search of their person is conducted against their wishes, you could find yourself charged with assault.

8. Do Not Leave the Shoplifter Unattended.

If you leave the shoplifter unattended, they may have a chance to get rid of any stolen items before the police arrive.

9. Write Down Details of the Incident.

As a witness to the shoplifting incident, it is important to make detailed notes about what was observed. This includes the time of the incident, any actions taken, and any conversation that was overheard. This information will be crucial for police officers as they determine whether there is enough evidence to arrest and charge the shoplifter.

10. Release the Shoplifter.

You may release the shoplifter at any time, though if they are under 18 years of age, you should only release them into the care of the police, their parent, or guardian.

How to Avoid Assault Charges and False Imprisonment Claims

If you make a citizen’s arrest, you must remember that you have a duty of care to the person you are detaining. If you use too much force, the shoplifter could bring charges of assault against you and you may be called to court to justify your actions.

If an incident is investigated and the shoplifter is not charged, you could be at risk of a civil claim for damages for false imprisonment. This means that you could be sued by the individual who was detained, and if found liable, would have to pay damages to that person.

This post is for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

You should always seek professional legal and other advice before making any final decisions. The content in this article is subject to change.

Safety First

When you spot a shoplifter, always remember to keep your personal safety in mind. You never know whether the culprit could be armed with a gun or knife, so it’s important to approach with caution.

If you see someone leaving the store with unpaid merchandise, it’s best to call the authorities and let them handle it. Trying to stop the person yourself could be dangerous.

Stealing a sweater isn’t worth it – and if your vigilante justice is against your company’s policies, you could lose your job.

How to Prevent Theft

As an employee, it is your responsibility to help prevent theft from the store. By keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior and working with security, you can help keep the store’s losses to a minimum.

When you’re at work, remember to greet customers and offer help when needed. Checking in with them occasionally lets them know that you’re aware of what’s going on.

Keep the store looking its best by staying on top of tidying up and keeping displays neat. This will help discourage shoplifters, as well as help you keep an eye on the fitting rooms.

Facial Recognition Technology for Shoplifting

If a store owner or employee feels as though they are suspicious of a person, they may choose to check their security camera.

If they discover there was any foul play, they could run the video through facial-recognition software and match it to a suspect.

Some stores also share pictures and identities of known thieves with each other to prevent theft.


What to do if you catch someone stealing at the store? You can make a citizen’s arrest, call the police, or use facial recognition technology to identify the shoplifter. Choose the option that makes you feel most comfortable and always err on the side of caution when dealing with criminals.