Wyndham police have arrested 49 shoplifters in three days as part of a crackdown on thefts from retail businesses.
Acting Inspector Aaron Riches said that officers made the arrests this month.
He said that Wyndham police, in partnership with local shopping centres and their loss prevention officers, were working together to address the “increasing trend” of shoplifting.
Acting Inspector Riches said that so far the efforts had focused on shopping centres located in Werribee and Tarneit.
He said some of the most common items stolen by those arrested included meat, clothing, mobile phones and white goods.
“In some cases, people can later trade the meat for drugs – some drug dealers accept meat in return for drugs,” Acting Inspector Riches said.
He said that the reasons given for shoplifting were “many and varied” and the people arrested included both men and women.
“The ages ranged from kids to the oldest being a 60-year-old man,” he said.
Wyndham police last year recorded 850 shoplifting offences in the municipality, compared to 670 in 2017.
Under Victorian law, shoplifting is considered theft and can result in penalties of imprisonment, fines or both.
Courts can also order people found guilty of shoplifting to return the stolen goods or pay for them.
A report from the Sentencing Advisory Council into the sentencing outcomes of people found guilty of theft in the Magistrates Court of Victoria from 2012-13 to 2016-17 found that 18 per cent of shoplifting cases resulted in a custodial sentence.
The Australian Retailers Association last year told The Australian newspaper that retail theft cost the industry an estimated $9.5 billion in lost revenue each year.
Anyone with information about shoplifting can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.