Retail theft a ‘constant challenge’ for Mandurah district police

Stealing crackdown: Pinjarra Police Senior Sergeant Ian Francis outside the shopping centre complex. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.
Stealing crackdown: Pinjarra Police Senior Sergeant Ian Francis outside the shopping centre complex. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

Mandurah and Pinjarra police officers say theft is a “constant challenge” for the district after more than 200 stealing offences went before court last month. 

Data collated by the Mandurah Mail shows a total of 2081 charges were heard at the Mandurah Magistrates Court in September. 

There were 211 stealing charges, not including possessing stolen property (48) and stealing as a servant (8).

Since 2011, Mandurah’s reported stealing offences have been more than Rockingham, Joondalup and Bunbury, except for 16/17, when Rockingham surpassed Mandurah for the year, according to WA Police data.

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Mandurah’s reported stealing offences have increased from 1205 in 11/12, to 1319 in 17/18.

This is more than Rockingham, (1190 in 11/12, 1086 in 17/18), Joondalup (874 in 11/12, 985 in 17/18) and Bunbury, which has seen a decrease (643 in 11/12, 623 in 17/18). 

Mandurah Police Senior Sergeant Darren Hart said retail theft was a “constant challenge” for the district. 

“With the growth in the region we have all these large shopping hubs, which mean more people, retailers and theft opportunities,” he said. 

Mandurah Police Senior Sergeant Darren Hart. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

Mandurah Police Senior Sergeant Darren Hart. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

“There is Lakelands, Singleton and Halls Head shopping centres and the remodel of the Mandurah Forum with more shops and more people, which equals better opportunity for theft.”

Senior Sergeant Hart said an operation targeting retail theft in the past three months involving 266 patrols resulted in 21 charges and 10 people summoned to appear in court.

“The majority was done at the Forum but it was also at the other centres,” he said. 

“We spent 212 hours talking to businesses about crime prevention strategies, like how best to design your shop to avoid theft and explained emerging crime trends like PayPass fraud and EFTPOS manipulation.”

“No insignificant thefts”

Senior Sergeant Hart said officers were even targeting minor thefts, which could lead to significant busts in the long run.

“A stealing of a packet of lollies doesn’t sit high on the priority list, but they might have done three or four other thefts,” he said.

“There’s the potential to have a bigger impact then solving just that one theft.”

This rang true in Mandurah Magistrates Court on Tuesday, when Nathan Blair Beeton pleaded guilty to stealing $400 worth of meat from Aldi in Lakelands on September 3. 

Graph: Mandurah's stealing offences (blue) compared to Joondalup (orange) and Bunbury (green) from 2008 to 2018. WA Police data.

Graph: Mandurah's stealing offences (blue) compared to Joondalup (orange) and Bunbury (green) from 2008 to 2018. WA Police data.

Magistrate Anne Longden told the court Beeton was due to appear in court the day after the theft for a “number of stealing matters”. 

Beeton will reappear for sentencing next week, when his other stealing charges are before the court. 

Pinjarra Police Senior Sergeant Ian Francis said retail theft contributed to 50 per cent of the area’s stealing statistics. 

“We have issues at the shopping centre with anti-social behaviour and retail theft,” he said. 

Similar to Mandurah’s recent retail operation, Senior Sergeant Francis said Pinjarra would be cracking down on stealing.

Let’s face it, if you are one of those people and see your face on a TV screen, you’re not going to stay there.

Pinjarra Police Senior Sergeant Ian Francis

“We will try to identify prolific offenders and manage their behaviour through banning notices,” he said. 

“We are trying to make it more family friendly.”

In September, officers issued seven shopping centre bans ranging from three to 12 months in duration. 

Senior Sergeant Francis said they were waiting for approval to circulate CCTV images of “prolific offenders” on shopping centre screens.

“People will be able to report them to Crime Stoppers,” he said. 

A stealing of a packet of lollies doesn’t sit high on the priority list, but they might have done three or four more other thefts.

Mandurah Police Senior Sergeant Darren Hart

“But let’s face it, if you are one of those people and see your face on a TV screen, you’re not going to stay there.”

Senior Sergeant Francis said stealing impacted on small business. 

“If someone is committing a stealing offence every two days, that has a significant impact on whether they can stay open or if they have to shut their doors,” he said. 

“I don’t care if it’s $3 or $300 – the amount is insignificant.”

Fraud a “complex issue”

In September, 224 charges of gains benefit by fraud went before the Mandurah Magistrates Court. 

Mandurah had consistently lower reported fraud crimes in the past 10 years compared to Rockingham, Joondalup and Bunbury, but a spike has seen 186 more offences committed in 17/18, compared to the year prior. 

Now, Mandurah’s fraud offences (65 in 08/09 up to 363 in 17/18) are more than Rockingham’s fraud offences (110 in 08/09, 189 in 17/18), Joondalup’s fraud offences (137 in 08/09, 224 in 17/18) and Bunbury’s fraud offences (85 in 08/09, 160 in 17/18). 

This includes forgery, credit card fraud and other non-specified fraudulent offences. 

Senior Sergeant Hart said a large portion of the reported offences could be attributed to credit card fraud. 

He said fraud was a “complex issue”. 

“Fraud offences are much higher in suburbs where there is a major shopping centre like Mandurah, Halls Head, Lakelands and Secret Harbour,” Senior Sergeant Hart said. 

“There is a whole different range of things that could count as fraud but probably the most common is PayPass fraud these days.

“Twenty years ago, it would be stealing a cheque book.

“Banks will usually wear the cost with PayPass fraud and sometimes people will not even report it to police.”

But, if it is reported, he said police can investigate the perpetrator and attempt to stop further offences occurring down the track.