Police are concerned about a significant rise in assaults on shop owners in the Bendigo CBD and Marketplace.
Leading Senior Constable Rod Brown said several shopkeepers had recently been attacked or threatened when chasing after shoplifters.
In one instance a shopkeeper chased a thief into a nearby store, where the offender grabbed a kitchen knife and a screwdriver and threatened him and other staff members.
“We don’t want a situation like that,” Leading Senior Constable Rod Brown said. “They might be alcohol or drug-affected, or both, and the situation can escalate until it gets completely out of hand.”
Bendigo Downtown Traders Association president Ross White said shoplifting was always a concern for traders, and became more problematic in the lead-up to Christmas.
But Mr White, who owns Bags on Williamson, said confronting offenders was sometimes difficult.
“You pull someone up these days, you don’t know what they have in their pockets, knives or other weapons,” he said.
Leading Senior Constable Brown said he was trying to encourage shopkeepers to be more aware of the risks if they or their staff left the shop to chase after shoplifters.
“They need to check their insurance policy and duty of care provisions – they might not be financially covered if they chase suspects outside their store,” he said.
“We’re asking shopkeepers to deal with this kind of thing in store if they can, and ring police on 000 if assistance is required.”
He said it was a good idea for business owners to install CCTV cameras, which were a great way of catching shoplifters.
“There have been significant improvements in technology and reduction in costs,” he said.
“Discreetly following suspects at a safe distance and obtaining a vehicle registration number might also be an option in certain circumstances.”
Mr White said traders were taking shoplifting and any assaults on their staff seriously. “We are a lot more aware of the problem and there are more cameras around the place than they would expect.”