Trade organizations in Germany and police are worried about the rapid rise in shoplifting across the country, causing billions of euros in losses to retailers. And in most cases, the thieves are not caught.
Crime statistics show that 391,000 cases of shoplifting were recorded across Germany in 2014, marking a 7-percent surge year-on-year.
"Among the shoplifters are children, teenagers, adults, pensioners, what have you - hardly any age group is excluded," the German trade association HDE complained Tuesday.
It said retailers incurred a loss of some 2.1 billion euros ($2.4 billion) annually because of excessive shoplifting. "This is a sum that really hurts," HDE spokesman Stefan Hertel said in a statement.
Officials from the Cologne-based Scientific Institute of Retailing (EHI) reckoned that 98 percent of all shoplifting cases remained unnoticed.
EHI expert Frank Horst said the ordinary shoplifter tended to steal small items usually worth no more than 80 euros. He added the focus remained on perfumes, razor blades, cosmetics and consumer electronics.
But he noted the value of stolen items increased rapidly when organized criminals were in action. "Then, these can easily walk away with goods worth between 1,500 euros and 2,000 euros at a time, and unfortunately, we're seeing a rise in such organized crime activities," Horst said.
"The pattern is always the same," said Stefan Hertel from the HDE trade group. "A group of people enter the shop; one of them distracts the shop assistant, while the others steal whatever they can - it only takes a couple of seconds."
hg/jd (dpa, ARD)