Aussie 'mum and dad' shoplifters caught red-handed as cost of living crime spikes

In South Australia, rates of retail theft have increased by almost 30 per cent in a year.

A man is seen shoplifting in a supermarket in SA, stuffing an item under his sweater, amid the state's growing theft problem.
In one shopping centre, almost 50 people were caught shoplifting in Adelaide in a single day. Source: 7News

As the cost of living crisis continues to hurt Aussies in the hip pocket, police say shoplifting is spiralling out of control, with theft rising by 30 per cent in one state in a year — a "trend that is expected to continue".

With renters paying record highs and the nation's major supermarkets facing allegations of price gouging, authorities say everyday Aussies are turning to theft to make ends meet, particularly in South Australia, where there were 1,455 shoplifting offences in March alone. While high, that figure is actually down from 1,721 offences in January.

Back in August, retailers warned that shoplifting was "out of control" in parts of the state, while in April, a police blitz apprehend 48 people in just one day for shoplifting during a major police operation at Adelaide's popular Rundle Mall.

A man is seen shoplifting in a supermarket in SA, amid the state's growing theft problem.
Retails warn 'mums and dads' are not among those being caught-out stealing. Source: 7News

It's a nationwide issue attributed to a range of socio-economic factors". So while the concerning trend is "not confined to South Australia", authorities across the state are pouring resources into managing the situation.

"In SA, police have been working proactively with the retail sector and individual businesses in the city that have been frequently targeted to reduce the harm caused by recidivist offenders,’" Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.

"This significant factor has contributed to businesses increasing their reporting which has in turn assisted police in combating the problem."

A woman is seen stealing from a music store while a man is seen stuffing food down his pants in a supermarket in SA, as rates of shoplifting soar.
Rates of shoplifting are soaring in one state, with police reporting a 30 per increase in theft in a year. Source: 7News

In many cases, it's not the usual suspects being caught out. While organised crime is involved, so too are average mum and dads, according to Josh Peak from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association.

"We continue to see the impact of organised crime and gangs... but we're seeing a lot of theft from people whom you could categorise as mum and dads," he told Seven News.

"So it is a worry."

There have been almost 19,000 people busted for shoplifting in the last year in South Australia, a rise of 29 per cent, according data released by police on Monday.

Retail staff also say a large portion of the people stealing from stores aren't who you'd expect, with "mum and dads" also now being caught in the act.

With police publicly sounding the alarm, Commissioner Grant Stevens said things will get worse before they get better – at least in terms of the data.

"While such reporting elevates the statistics for shop theft, it gives a much clearer picture of the extent of the problem," he said.

"This increased reporting trend is expected to continue and will further elevate the statistics."

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.