Orchard Road retailers might want to keep an eye out for the latest trend to hit the shopping belt: theft of sunglasses.
The latest police statistics show that there were 28 cases of sunglasses theft at retail outlets in Orchard Road in the first half of this year, a spike from just three in the same period last year. An increase was also seen in the second half of last year, which saw 21 cases.
A police spokesman called this an "alarming increase" and added that the police have conducted crime risk surveys at affected retail outlets "to tackle this rising trend".
The two most common ways used by the offenders were to slip the sunglasses into their bags or pockets, or to put them on and walk out of the store. A pair of sunglasses can cost $78 to $1,000, going by prices at Owndays Singapore, which has 15 outlets islandwide, and Alexis Eyewear Boutique, a store under Nanyang Optical, one of the largest optician chains here.
Between January and August, 244 people were arrested for shop theft in the Orchard Road shopping district. Of these, 174 were arrested in the first half of the year, compared with 173 for the same period last year. In total, 317 were arrested for shop theft last year, up from 254 in 2013.
"Shop theft is closely monitored by the police and, over the years, shopping malls along Orchard Road have worked in close collaboration with the police to tackle this crime," said the police spokesman.
"Shopping malls have enhanced security measures, such as the installation of CCTVs in recent years, and police officers frequently patrol within the premises to deter and detect crime."
With larger crowds expected during the year-end festive season, the police also advised retailers to install surveillance cameras, display expensive items in locked showcases and be alert to customers who ask "excessive and irrelevant questions" as these may be a distraction.
Mr Steven Goh, executive director of Orchard Road Business Association, said it does not have consolidated statistics or trend data about shop thefts in the precinct.
"Usually, during the festive seasons, the police will send out a circular requesting that shoppers and retailers exercise heightened vigilance against such crimes," he said.
Some sunglasses retailers in Orchard Road told The Straits Times that there have been cases of theft but they are not too worried.
Mr Umiyama Takeshi, managing director of Owndays Singapore, said: "We have found one or two sunglasses missing when we conduct inventory checks. But it's minimal and it's not alarming. Besides, we train our staff to always greet every walk-in customer and maintain eye contact. That will deter thieves too."
Ms Lee Lay Ting, manager of Alexis Eyewear Boutique at Paragon, said there was a shop theft incident in 2012, but no police report was made as the store did not have a surveillance camera then. "We have CCTVs now in all our stores, and we make sure we have enough manpower - up to five people - in the shop. If it's too crowded, we will also close the doors to prevent more people from entering," she said.
Mr Eric Low, managing director at dh.sunglass at Orchard Gateway, said the shop has reported a few cases to the police since it opened in April last year.
But there were fewer incidents this year, added Mr Low, who referred two cases to the mall's security as it is less time-consuming than making a police report. "We have many cameras in our shop and also (from) the way we display our sunglasses, it is easy to notice if any (pair of) sunglasses are missing."