• What is the extent of the illegal organized cigarette trade in South Africa? How much money is lost annually to the South African economy as a result? We answer these and other important questions in an article published in Servamus: January 2021.

  • Servamus subscribers stand the chance of winning a BYRNA Less-lethal firearm (no need for permits). Turn to p21 of Servamus: January 2021 to find out what you need to do to win this awesome prize worth R7500!

  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the threat of crimes that are committed in the pharmaceutical industry, such as counterfeiting and fraud, as large consignments of counterfeit medical products have been distributed. Our article published from p24 in Servamus: January 2021, reveals more details.

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By Kotie Geldenhuys

The term "organised crime" is associated with crimes involving "big money": cash-in-transit robberies, smuggling of precious metals and stones, smuggling of wildlife and animal parts, drug trafficking, cross-border vehicle crime and money laundering, to name a few. In the process we overlook the potential role of organised crime in the retail environment. Organised crime in the retail environment is about much more than an armed robbery at a shopping mall when a group of heavily armed criminals target shops trading in goods such as jewellery, IT equipment, cellphones and exclusive clothing. It also involves the large-scale theft of everyday consumer items such as baby formula, cigarettes, razors, over-the-counter medication, health and beauty items, designer brand clothing, accessories as well as electronics.

Organised retail crime, often referred to as organised retail theft, typically refers to large-scale retail theft, shoplifting and fraud by organised groups of professional shoplifters, also known as “boosters”. Stolen and fraudulently obtained goods are not only taken from retailers, but also from manufacturers and distributors (Finklea, 2012). The US Lost Prevention Foundation (2018) states that organised retail crime involves the association of two or more persons engaged in illegally obtaining retail merchandise in substantial quantities through both theft and fraud as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. The term organised retail crime is an umbrella term for a variety of retail crimes which include:

  • Theft in the form of shoplifting. The Centre for Retail Research (2019) in the UK stresses that retailers increasingly find that part of customer theft (shoplifting) is caused by gangs (organised retail crime).
  • Gift card fraud can take several forms. One example is where thieves purchase legitimate gift cards using stolen credit cards and then sell the gift cards to the highest bidder using an online auction website. Another example is where thieves purchase low-value gift cards, electronically reprogramme the cards to contain a higher value, and resell these reprogrammed cards (Finklea, 2012). The 15th Annual Organised Retail Crime Report of the US National Retail Federation (NRF) (2019) found that stolen goods are sometimes returned for store credit, typically for gift cards and that 51% of retailers have found those gift cards for sale online.
  • Receipt fraud happens when thieves steal merchandise, create counterfeit receipts for the stolen goods, return the stolen goods to the retailers using the counterfeit receipts and collect money for their fraudulent returns (Finklea, 2012).
  • Ticket switching refers to thieves who fraudulently obtain high-value items at a relatively low cost. Thieves use devices that create fake barcodes which they adhere to packages, covering the original barcodes. When the package is scanned, these new barcodes ring up the items at lower costs. The thieves can resell the goods at prices higher than what they paid, but lower than their retail values (Finklea, 2012).
  • Cargo theft also forms part of organised retail crime since retail goods are vulnerable to criminals at various points throughout the supply chain. Both goods that are stolen from cargo trucks or from retail stores are fenced by criminals for a profit and both affect society’s economy, public health and domestic security. Thieves use various methods to obtain merchandise from cargo, which include the hijacking of trucks and stealing goods from cargo boxes and then resealing them so that the boxes appear as though they have not been tampered with (Finklea, 2012). According to the 2019 report of the US National Retail Federation, 73% of retailers have lost merchandise due to cargo theft, followed by 59% of theft that occurred en route to distribution centres (NRF, 2019).

For the purpose of this article we will look at shoplifting as a form of organised retail crime.


(This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: December 2020. The rest of the article deals with amateurs and professional shoplifters; e-fencing; the cost of organised retail crime; dealing with shoplifting and the fact that it is not a victimless crime. If you are interested in reading the rest of this article, send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Servamus’s offices at tel: (012) 345 4660/22/41. Ed.)

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Servamus - January 2021

A lack of employment and job opportunities is often considered to be an important reason for criminal behaviour.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Towards the end of March 2020, the President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that as of midnight on 26 March 2020, South Africa would go into a "hard lockdown".
By Kotie Geldenhuys
The current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in various lockdown levels across the world, has opened new opportunities for criminals to exploit people - especially in cyberspace.
By Annalise Kempen
Families across the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which will likely have a long-lasting impact on public health and our well-being.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - January 2021

Read More - S v Leshilo (345/2019) [2020] ZASCA 98 (8 September 2020) (SCA)
Mr Moshidi Danny Leshilo (hereinafter referred to as “the accused”), was accused 1 before the regional court, Pretoria (“the trial court”) where he was convicted on 11 June 2014 of housebreaking with the intent to commit an unknown offence in terms of section 262 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (count 1); the unlawful possession of a firearm (count 2); and the unlawful possession of ammunition (count 3).
Read More - S v JA 2017 (2) SACR 143 (NCK)
Mr JA, the accused who is from Port Nolloth on the northern part of the South African west coast, was convicted of rape before the regional court, Springbok in Namaqualand.
Read More - S v Ndlovu 2017 (2) SACR 305 (CC)
Relevant legislation (1) Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 provides for the offence of rape simpliciter (Afrikaans: “sonder voorbehoud”).

Letters - January 2021

Hearty congratulations to Sgt T S Moletsane of the Beaufort West Stock Theft Unit who was awarded as the Best Member of a Stock Theft Unit - for the fourth consecutive year!
January Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.