A Whangarei repeat shoplifter has told a judge she steals from shops as it gives her a buzz and the thefts were covered by insurance.
But Renee Rook's explanation for her sixth shoplifting conviction earned her a rebuke from the judge and a nine-week jail term that will keep her in prison during the busy Christmas shopping period.
The case has also sparked a warning for Northland retailers to be vigilant for shoplifters this festive season after a spate of thefts from businesses that have landed offenders in court.
In the lead-up to Christmas in previous years the region has had gangs of professional shoplifters from Auckland drive up north to steal items, particularly from small retail outlets in central Whangarei, using a number of tactics such as hiding goods in prams.
Retailers fear the gangs could return this month.
Retail New Zealand estimates shoplifting costs the country's retailers about $760 million annually and each household pays about $450 to cover the loss.
In Whangarei District Court on Monday Rook was jailed for nine weeks and given a final warning after she pleaded guilty to a charge of shoplifting.
Rook, 32, already had five convictions for shoplifting and told police she got an adrenalin rush from stealing from shops.
Rook said she would not steal from residential properties but she would from retail outlets because she didn't really care as businesses have insurance.
She went to Farmers department store in central Whangarei where CCTV cameras showed her placing a child's tutu valued at $19 down her trousers and a cardigan worth $24 in her hooded sweatshirt.
Rook later handed over the stolen items at the Whangarei Police station.
Judge John McDonald said regrettably the real victims of shoplifting were not retailers but members of the public as they paid more to cover the thefts. He said there were many people in Whangarei who struggled financially but didn't resort to stealing to survive. Rook's lawyer, John Moroney, said sending her to jail would not address her underlying problems. He submitted Rook didn't need the items she stole.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Stu Wilkes said the same could be said of people who stole electrical items they didn't need from homes.
Tony Collins, chief executive of the Northland Chamber of Commerce, said many retail outlets were run by families who employed people andtook risks in a tough economic climate. He said retailers had an incredibly tough three years with small profit margins.
"The real losers [from shoplifting] are ultimately the whole country. It's easy for people to say that [retailers] run a big business but behind that there are several families dependent on it."
Mr Collins said as the festive season approached, businesses needed to be vigilant and shouldn't make it easy for shoplifters.