Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Plague of Shoplifters

On Monday evening we had a scruffy looking bloke come into the store and something about him rang alarm bells; I followed him round to the hot food counter, and there served him a couple of the few remaining items bagged up and reduced.

On the way back in the direction of the check-outs I was very briefly distracted by another customer and as a result I got back to the check-outs in time to be told by the only operator on duty that he'd strolled out of the store without paying for anything, but with something that rustled under his sweater.

I hope the ham he knicked poisoned him.

The same operator and I were on duty yesterday late afternoon when we were approached by a customer who believed that he'd just seen someone secrete a bottle of whiskey about his person. Unfortunately we were only in time to get a glimpse of the thief legging it around the corner. On the way back I was passed by a scruffy looking and very young couple with a baby in a push chair who set my alarms off.

As judgemental as it might sound fake Burberry, extensive tatooing, copious body piercings, lanky unwashed hair and pallid complexion combine to create the impression of someone lacking self-respect and where there is no self-respect generally there can be no respect for others (or their property).

They seemed however to dutifully queue up and pay for their goods; I put them from my mind. A little later in the evening after I'd finished the admin. and begun to get stuck into straightening up the shop floor I was informed that the whiskey thief had returned, this time drunk and accompanied by a skinny youth with pustules all over his face. By this time of the day the shop is fairly empty and it is correspondingly difficult to have a pair of suspected thieves under surveillance without them recognising what's going on.

A bit of abusive language later they left.

I suppose we had vague hopes that matters would rest there but a short while later they returned with reinforcements, one of whom I recognised from a past visit as an aggressive little loud-mouth. He attempted to enter without a shirt on which gave me a pretext for stopping him. He gave me a bit of lip and swagger and bluster, then retreated to the foyer to use the pay phone, surrounded by his mates in a tight cluster.

A couple of times they attempted to break back into the main store and each time I stood my ground on the question of not entering until fully dressed. Each time they got further into the store, pushing to find out quite where the limit would be. Hairdo had entered the fray by this point and tried to make them stay together in one place while what they wished to purchase was brought to them, on the grounds that they were clearly under the influence, dishevelled, loud, intimidating and generally unwelcome.

They weren't having anything of it. Once inside the store (the semi-naked yobbo having donned the coat of the whiskey thief) they split into two groups. The newly dressed yob and the other new member of the gang headed for wines and spirits protesting that they only wanted to buy a bottle of drink for the Shirtless One's birthday. The other two, the original whiskey thief and the pustule covered accomplice, headed for the hot food counter where I had no option but to hand over a couple items. Determined not to have happen what had happened the previous night I stuck to them all round the aisles with them laughing at the way they were making us dance to their tune.

That something was happening must have been perfectly obvious to anyone in the store but that didn't stop a middle aged couple way-laying me for help in finding the steralising tablets for baby bottles. They were standing facing the baby food, the sterilising tablets were on a shelf on the other side of the aisle (ie, to their backs) alongside all the other. I snatched a packet from the shelf and thrust it at them before heading back in pursuit of the trouble makers. I hope they were left thinking me quite as rude as I thought them stupid.

After purchasing the cheese and bacon slice and the other hot food item (I can't even remember what it was) they left the store accompanied by the other pair.

Yet again they hoped that would be it. Hairdo patrolled the main entrance and back they came. This time Hairdo stood her ground as they attempted to come back into the store ... as I joined her the pustule covered youth pulled out his phone and feigned calling the police. There was lots of swagger from them about their legal right to enter the store, of the "I know my rights".

Since both Hairdo and I had serious doubts that he'd called the police and the pair were still outside making threatening noises about being prepared to enter the store whether we permitted it or not I dialled 999 for police attendance.

In the meantime a male customer intervened to send the pair packing.

Calm didn't last long. They'd only gone around the corner, doing damage to external fixtures as they went, and they'd linked up with the Chav couple and their baby. My instinct about them hadn't been completely wrong. The young couple drifted away as we watched, we turned around to go back into the store only to stop to the sound of breaking glass. For a brief moment Hairdo and I stood face to face with (and only a couple of feet from) a drunken youth waving a broken bottle and chanting "your dead, your dead, your dead etc".

In all we placed three 999 calls for police; eventually a lone female officer arrived, took note of the youths, spoke to them (from the safety of her patrol vehicle) and promised us she'd remain until the last member of staff had safely got away.

The Sex Pest somehow managed to find out something was up and come in, which was appreciated as it happens. He wanted to know why one of us hadn't kneed one of them in the groin, but I suspect that only would have landed who ever had been proactive with the threat at least of an assault charge. He wanted to know why the police hadn't turned up more promptly but the police wanted to know why we weren't calling local police rather than the emergency response service.

I've got two more evening shifts to get through this week, and an interview with the police this afternoon.

I don't get paid enough for this.

On the same theme, I found
The Dividing Line's The Forgetful Shopper
A Police Officer's perspective
New blogger Bob's anecdote
I also found this blog, from the persepective of the political Right-of-Centre, discussing Proposed Shoplifting Guidelines, and a self-selecting group of commentors.


Post a Comment

<< Home