More than 530,000 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended, and more than $116 million was recovered from those thieves by just 23 major retailers in 2006, according to the 19th Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International, a loss prevention and inventory shrinkage control consulting firm based in Fruitland Park, Fla.

The survey, which compared 2005 with 2006 data in 23 large retail companies, reported that for the second time in the past nine years, the number of both shoplifting and dishonest employee apprehensions and the dollars recovered from the apprehensions increased. How-ever, the problem of retail theft is still acute. The 23 retailers who were surveyed lost approximately $6 billion to retail theft in 2006, ac-cording to Mark Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes International. The retailers recovered only 2.2 percent from shoplifters and dishonest employees, leaving more than $5.9 billion in unaccounted-for theft losses.

“More shoplifters and employees are stealing from employers,” Doyle said. “We are seeing more organized retail theft where shoplifters work in teams and steal large quantities of specific items then sell the items back to retail stores or set up their own storefronts and sell the merchandise.”

The low unemployment rate in the United States is contributing to the problem of employee theft, Doyle said. In their quest to at-tract new employees, some retailers are lowering pre-employment screening procedures and hiring inappropriate applicants whom they might have screened out in the past.

“Retail theft is a much greater problem than people realize,” Doyle said. “The theft losses experienced by retailers are driving consumer prices higher, hurting our economy and even forcing some retailers to go out of business.”

Electrical contractors can assist their retail customers by specifying and installing a comprehensive security and inventory tracking system. For more information on prevention measures, read this month’s Connectivity column by Allan B. Colombo.