Theft prevention for your business

Une employée travaille

Casino, train and bank robbers have become something of a folk legend, in part thanks to Hollywood showcasing the ingenuity of these thieves. Robbery seems cool when it’s done on screen by George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Ocean's Eleven, and not so much when it’s Steve or Sandra doing it on grainy security camera footage. However, shoplifters like Steve and Sandra are growing in numbers. Is there a way to deter them? Keep reading for tips on how to dissuade would-be thieves looking for a five-finger discount.

Types of theft

There are many different types, but the classic ones are shoplifting, burglary and armed robbery.


Unfortunately, this type of theft is quite common. It’s when people hide goods in their pockets or in a bag and leave without paying for them. They do this as sneakily as possible and will employ any number of strategies to get their hands on the loot.


Also known as breaking and entering, this is the unlawful entry into a business or store with the intent of stealing. Even though a door may be unlocked or a window open, this is still considered breaking in because the thief is in a place they're not supposed to be.

Armed robbery

This type of theft involves violence. It occurs when the perpetrator uses a weapon, an object or threats to get what they want.

The table below shows police-reported crime statistics in Quebec from 2016 to 2021. Theft happens more than you think—and it’s costing retailers and businesses millions of dollars.

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Armed robbery or extortion 4 895 4 597 4 518 4 594 4 249 4 539
Burglary 30 699 29 719 25 674 23 010 18 370 16 017
Vehicle theft 11 792 12 720 12 282 11 798 11 368 13 622
Theft over $5,000 2 917 2 998 3 458 3 101 2 554 2 867
Theft of $5,000 or under 59 194 58 501 55 967 54 123 43 511 44 777

Source: Gouvernement du Québec, Criminalité au Québec, Principales tendances 2021 (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) (French only)

Protecting your business and property

How do you protect your business when there are so many would-be thieves out there? Here are 5 solutions that will help you make your business more secure.

1. Establish a strict policy

Putting into place a policy and action plan is the first step. When it comes to stopping theft, time is of the essence! What do you do when you catch a thief red-handed? Who do you call? How do you proceed? Having a clear plan will make it much easier to act quickly. Write a policy and make your staff aware of it. You can even do a simulation with your team. That way, everyone will know what to do. 

2. Reorganize your store’s layout

You can always rearrange the space in such a way as to deter thieves. Install an alarm that sounds as soon as someone enters your store. This will be useful when you or your staff are not on the floor. Sometimes, simply knowing that their presence was detected will deter would-be thieves. Bright lighting also helps! Thieves will feel more exposed. Consider installing a raised platform, at the checkout, that will allow you and your staff to have a better view of the entire store, especially if you have high shelves or displays. Space out your aisles and displays to minimize theft opportunities. Finally, keep small, high-value goods near the cash registers to keep an eye on them.

3. Use security tags

These little devices are a great way to deter thieves. When they are not deactivated, they will trigger the store’s alarm system as the thief crosses the detection sensor. Different products call for different security tags, but not all products can be tagged. Make sure you give a receipt for every transaction. That way, you’ll avoid refunding a thief for a stolen item.  

4. Hire staff!

Your staff is your eyes and ears. The more employees you have on the floor, the more likely you are to deter thieves. Too few, and they might not be able to keep an eye on everything and everyone. High-traffic times are the best times to steal. However, keep in mind that your staff could be the ones stealing from you. Do your due diligence before hiring. Ask for references and check to see if the person has a criminal record. To prevent employee fraud and theft, require financial transactions such as deposits to be verified by a second person. This will mitigate the risk. 

5. Install cameras

You don’t have eyes in the back of your head. Surveillance cameras can be your eyes when you’re busy doing something else or away. Install them in plain view and post signs to let customers know they're being watched.

Get insured!

Stores run a very high risk of theft. In addition to shoplifting by staff or customers, some owners have to deal with organized crime. Get business property insurance to cover your store and its contents:

  • installations
  • shelves and displays
  • fixed equipment
  • machinery
  • third-party property

Comprehensive crime coverage will protect you from theft by your staff as well as organized retail crime. Ask about the most appropriate coverage for your business.

In short, reorganizing the space and installing surveillance equipment will make your store more secure. Add to that a clear action plan and comprehensive insurance, and you're in business. You may not be able to stop all thieves, but you'll be able to deter more than one.