FOCUS: Reporting Beer Theft

When a person has been the victim of a beer theft, time is of the essence for Police trying to apprehend a suspect.

Your employees should contact Police as soon as possible in an effort to provide the following information:


  • Gender
  • Race
  • Physical description
  • Vehicle make, model, color, year, plate number, description, direction of travel
  • Number of occupants in the vehicle


Have you taken preventative measures to stop beer theft in your store? By not having the appropriate loss prevention measures in place you could be faced with one or more serious issues. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you or your employees intentionally supplying minors with alcohol through beer theft?
  • Could you be opening your business up to increased liability?
  • Are you using scares police resources to respond to minor crimes that could be prevented?
  •  Are you putting your employees at risk by creating an unsafe and crime ridden work environment?
  • Are you doing your best to assist with the prosecution process by showing up for court when an arrest is made?


Beer Theft, also known as “Beer Runs” is a type of shoplifting that has been around for years. Typically, a person will  enter a convenience store where  there is a lone clerk behind  the counter, pick up a single can, six pack, or even a case of beer and simply walk out the front door  right  past  the clerk.   The very nature of the  crime makes it  confrontational between the clerk and the suspect, increasing the potential  for violence.  Many clerks have been instructed to let the person leave the store without trying to stop them or recover the merchandise and to then call the police. This method reduces the likelihood of injury to the clerk, but without the proper loss prevention methods in place, it increases the chance the business will be a repeated victim of theft. The purpose of this brochure is to outline some prevention methods that reduce the likelihood of crime and increase the safety of employees.


Many times the suspect will make repeated trips to the same convenience store and commit additional beer thefts if they are not caught. If you or one of your clerks recognizes a person coming into the store who has stolen beer in the past, they should call the police immediately. Don’t wait for the person to steal again. An officer in the area has a better chance of catching the suspect if they are already in route as soon as that person enters the store.

Tip #2

Make sure that your video cameras produce high enough quality recording that the suspects can easily be identified when reviewing the tapes after a beer theft. Once someone gets away with a crime, they are much more likely to try again. They also spread the word quickly that this is an easy location to steal from. Good quality, clear recordings often result in catching the criminal and deterring future crimes at the same location.

The hidden costs of beer theft

Beer theft costs everyone. Not only does it cost the retailer in lost product, but consumers end up paying more as well. Not only will they pay more at the cash register, but taxes will rise to cover the additional costs related to law enforcement to combat crime. The corner store is no longer a safe place to stop by and pick up a few items. No one wants to be in the way of a person committing a beer theft and take a chance that they may or may not be armed. When customers no longer feel safe, they quit visiting their favorite neighborhood convenience store. When that happens, retailers are now losing both the products that are stolen and the profits from the customers that no longer want to shop in their stores. Your store becomes known on the street as an “easy mark” for criminals.

Other Crimes

If beer theft appears to have no consequences, other crimes may be attempted.

Police time – repeated calls to the same location takes time away from other important calls.

Increased cost to consumers – Someone has to pay for the lost products and profits.

Increased insurance costs – Repeated reports can cost in extra premiums.

Dangerous Location – No one wants to shop where a crime is being committed on a regular basis. Profits drop as a result.

Sale Hours

By reducing the open hours of selling alcohol, you can decrease your chances of beer theft during the peak times. For instance, if you lock up your beer from midnight to 6 a.m. so that a person has to request the product, it is much more difficult for them to run out of the store without paying. Simply have them pay for it before you supply them with the product. If possible, try to have to clerks on duty during your peak times so that one can retrieve the product for customers and one can stay by the cash register. Two or more clerks on duty at all times is even better for safety reasons. If you only have one clerk on duty, you need to put more efficient prevention methods into place.

Beer Theft Prevention

  • Make eye contact with each customer as they enter the store.
  • Greet each customer with at least a simple, “hi.” Now they know that you are aware of them in the store.
  • Have a panic alarm button behind the counter for the clerks.
  • Keep only empty beer boxes on displays.
  • Shrinkwrap later area displays so beer cannot be easily grabbed.
  • Use a buzzer on the door to the beer cooler so the clerk knows when someone opens it
  • Raise the store clerk’s area 6-12 inches above the floor. The clerk will appear taller and they can see the entire store easier.
  • Put mirrors in each corner so the clerk can watch all activity in every area of the store.
  • Arrange the store so there is not a direct route from the beer cooler or display to the door.
  • Have more than one clerk on duty at all times for safety and to deter theft.
  • Ask for and hole the ID of anyone wanting to purchase alcohol until it is paid for. This can be your store policy. One clerk can get the requested product whole the other stays with the cash register at the front counter.
  • Install good quality video cameras that give a clear picture of the suspects.
  • Train employees on how to recognize a beer theft in progress and what to note for reporting.
  • Post notices that you will prosecute for all theft.