Clifton Downs Sainsbury’s has been named as the branch most affected by people deliberately scamming the self-service checkout machines. There has also been an 80% rise in the occurrence of theft from shops in the Whiteladies Road area according to the Avon and Somerset Police.
The Community Beat Manager for the University of Bristol, Nick Boyce, commented that: ‘the Clifton Downs Sainsbury’s is the worst affected in the whole country along with one other store in Bath.’
He continued saying that ‘this surprises me because it is a relatively affluent area, but it is in the heart of student land.’
Boyce highlighted the fact that increasing numbers of students have been caught attempting to de-fraud the machines by placing costly items on the scale and entering them as cheap goods, such as onions, rather than scanning them.
‘Clifton Downs Sainsbury’s has reported picking up more students recently attempting to pay the same amount of money for expensive meat as they would for onions’, according to Boyce.
The Community Beat Manager for the Clifton East Ward Boundary, Jeremy Burstow commented that: ‘the Clifton Downs Shopping Centre Security has reported regularly seeing the Sainsbury’s security chasing students out.’
Burstow continued saying ‘within the last 12 days, the police have been involved in 5 incidents with students from Bristol University and Bristol UWE. One female student had 7 offences registered on her nectar card.’
Burstow remarked that many students had a blasé attitude towards scamming the self-service machines, as one student has been recorded saying ‘everyone is doing this, I don’t know what the ****ing problem is.’
Sainsbury’s declined to provide a comment on this matter.
The current disciplinary action for being caught scamming the self-service machines involves an £80 penalty notice and a banning order. This prohibits the offender from entering any Sainsbury’s store in the UK. If this order is violated, then the individual can be prosecuted as a trespasser.
Boyce stressed the severity of scamming the self-service machines, as due to a recent law change, the crime is now seen as fraud rather than shop theft. Boyce commented that: ‘The difference lies in the intent to defraud. Whereas shop theft can occasionally be a genuine accident, scamming the self-service checkout machines is seen as deliberately defrauding a machine.’
Burstow emphasised that: ‘people can now be convicted for fraud over a very small amount of money. This can have serious implications for job applications and any criminal convictions can make entrance into the USA difficult.’
He continued saying, ‘Although people are often only scamming the machine over a few items, the combined total across the country is huge.’
The Avon and Somerset Police are looking to cut down on this problem and reinforce the message in September with the new intake of students. This will involve increased numbers of plain clothed police, raised awareness amongst the staff and more regular security checks. Boyce commented that: ‘In September a new system of restorative justice will be enforced.’
‘This involves an agreement between the store and the offender which states that if they continue, they will be arrested and taken to the police station. One young lady has already been arrested.’