‘It spreads the word in society’: Convenience store owner says displaying photos of alleged shoplifters deters crime
PRINCE ALBERT -- A Prince Albert business owner says posting surveillance photos of alleged shoplifters has deterred crime.
Samir Samnani owns two convenience stores in Prince Albert and says since he started posting the photos, there’s been less theft from his store.
“It’s helped big time for us and we’ve seen lots of improvements, and it spreads the word in society so everyone in the neighbourhood knows,” said Samir Samnani, owner and operator of Sylken Confectionary and Quick Stop.
Samnani said his convenience store in Prince Albert’s East Flat neighbourhood was losing lots of inventory to theft. He said he had to find a way to deal with the matter because there was little police could do.
“Most of the time, by the time the police come to the store, the person has ran away,” said Samnani.
He installed several cameras and mirrors around his store. If he does encounter a shoplifter, he said he asks them to pay for the item and leave the store. If they are confrontational, he calls the police.
“If it’s a small incident, we call the cops on that one because I know they usually have more serious stuff in society to do,” said Samnani.
An associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, Scott Thompson, says when gaps occur in the justice system, situations like this can arise. “Public shaming” may work as a deterrent, but might be damaging in other areas.
“What the research really show us with this type of vigilante type action is that it’s very difficult to control the type of impact these types of processes will have on the larger community,” said Thompson.
Samnani also posts photos of people he’s banned from his store for being confrontational with staff. He says the surveillance cameras may also help to deter a robbery of the store.
“Because of the cameras, the employees don’t have any kind of fear of robbery or injury,” said Samnani.
Owners of JP’s Confectionary told CTV News they also post photos of alleged shoplifters, but remove their photos if they come back and pay for the item.
“Customers know that if they come here for that kind of intention, this is what will happen,” Samnani said.
“These types of situations pose a few problematic questions, the first one being when people take justice into their own hands.
“We have formal processes, and in the absence of formal processes, we look for solutions and these might not be the best solutions for everybody,” said Thompson.
“If people feel that there is a space in which the formal system is not solving the problems that they have, they are going to look for their own solutions and again they might run into a problem where the types of solutions they find work for them, but might not work for society as a whole.”
He says research around public shaming of individuals in society who take these types of actions shows that this might not be the best measures to deal with issues such as petty theft.
“It’s hard to control the impact that these types of postings will have on the larger community,” said Thompson.