An Garda Síochána is urging Christmas shoppers to be vigilant of theft in retail car parks this month.
The warning comes as new figures show that €400,000 worth of goods was stolen from shoppers’ cars in Ireland last year.
The figures from the Garda Analysis Service to launch Retail Safety Day, also show that over 50 retail car park thefts took place each month in 2015.
Incidents are most common on Tuesdays and Fridays between 12 noon and 6pm, with thefts rising in December. The average value taken per theft was €600, while the most commonly taken items are cash, electronics, tools and handbags.
Launched to coincide with the start of the busy festive shopping period, Retail Safety Day urges members of the public to engage in safe shopping and parking in order to avoid becoming a victim of crime, whilst also improving their personal security.
Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda Bureau of Community Engagement Unit stated: "Customers should be careful while shopping. Always park in well-lit and secure areas. When you leave your car, lock all doors and windows and double check to make sure. Don’t leave property or cash on view, take it with you. Report all thefts and suspicious activities to staff or Gardaí.
"We strongly encourage shoppers to engage in safe parking as over 50 incidents of theft from vehicles at retail car parks occur every month. With an average loss of €600 per incident, many of these thefts are avoidable. Following some of these simple steps will make sure your Christmas doesn’t get spoiled by theft,” said Sergeant Courtney.
"There are also over 100 thefts from customers in shops every month. Handbags are being targeted when left in trolleys or hanging on buggies. The handbag itself isn’t always the item that is taken, sometimes objects within the handbag are targeted too and often they are not immediately noticed missing by the owner. Mobile phones are the most commonly stolen object.”
The Garda Analysis Service also said that shoplifting at Christmas time last year cost retailers €55 million, while the overall loss in 2015 was €255 million. However, thefts from shops have decreased by 2.7% this year so far, according to the CSO.
The busiest time for thefts from shops are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with almost two thirds occurring between 12pm and 6pm.
Sergeant Courtney added: "It’s important for retailers to be reminded that theft from shops tend to increase from mid November until Christmas.
The four main items stolen from retailers are groceries, alcohol, clothing and cosmetics. Thefts from clothes stores increase sharply just before Christmas and we also see a considerable increase of thefts from pharmacies, largely involving cosmetic thefts, throughout November and December.
Local Garda clinics will be held throughout the country in December advising the public on their personal safety at this festive time. Meanwhile, An Garda Síochána has produced safety information packs for both customers and retailers, both of which are available to download from the Garda website.