According to State Police data, around 10,000 criminal offenses were registered in Latvia in 2020 under the category petty theft, theft and fraud, as well as small-scale embezzlement. In 2021, the number declined and just over 6,000 offenses were recorded, but in 2022 nearly 4,000 were recorded in the first six. Police link the fall to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, current inflation in Latvia has raised concerns about a possible increase in thefts in the autumn and winter.
Although there is already an increase in the number of thefts in shops, the shops approached are reluctant to link it to the high price increases.
Juris Šleiers, head of public relations for the retail network “Rimi Latvia”, said that the number of thefts in the shops had increased, but this could not be explained by inflation, but more by people's carelessness when dealing with goods in self-service cash offices.
“Compared to last year, we can say that the number of thefts has increased [..]. It is probably due to the fact that we are increasing the number of self-service cash and people are simply careless and carry out a product or not scan it, so the procedure with guards should be formally followed, and then the involvement of the police,” said Šleiers said.
There is also an increase in the number of thefts in the retail network Maxima Latvija.
“The number of thefts is increasing against the previous year, but it is most likely linked to restrictions, with not all shops available, and it is this year that the flow of people is starting to return to stores in person. [..] Along with the increase in these various resources, inflation in the country, [..] we are not seeing big changes against the beginning of the year,” said Maxima Latvija spokeswoman Laura Bagātā.
According to Vineta Grigāne-Drande, spokeswoman for the Elvi network, the number of thefts is also increasing in the autumn because the school is beginning, and petty theft in shops is usually carried out by pupils at that time. The possibility that the number of thefts could rise due to inflation is considered but unlikely, said Grigāne-Drande.
Artis Velšs, head of the internal security services of the security company “G4S Latvija”, said the opposite. Due to inflation, the number of thefts in shops has increased significantly, and it will continue to grow in the coming months, as well as the group of people stealing has changed. Everybody is doing this now – from children to seniors.
“I suppose there are various reasons why this is happening, and one is, of course, this relatively free access, the other, this economic situation, the financial situation, the cost of products, and so on,” Velšs said.
If, before inflation, more expensive goods were usually nicked, like alcohol, coffee, fish products, detergents, or more expensive chocolates, with a view to illegally marketing these products, it has now been observed that products whose price has risen, like butter, are also stolen.
“In general, it can be said that the trend currently has a growing curve. If we look at the G4S Latvia statistics, then we have detained nearly10,000 people by the beginning of September. Usually, we detain 10 thousand in the year,” Velšs said.