Counting Crime is a Herald series looking at where and when offending is happening in the community - and who the victims are. Each day we will look at a different category of crime and examine the numbers, meet the people affected the most and reveal the times, days and places you are more likely to fall victim. Today we look at retail crime, which costs New Zealand more than $1.2 billion annually.

A small business owner was taught a harsh lesson when two brazen thieves stole four of his expensive and rare products from his Christchurch start-up company.

Sharing his story as part of the Herald series Counting Crime, Ian Brown says he's now far wiser after his "unique" go-carts were lifted from his small business, Velocity Karts, last July.

Now, following a police investigation as detectives were able to trace fingerprints left by the offenders, the Herald can reveal the two men have been caught and convicted for the crime.

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Each cart, valued at $25,000 and weighing about 40kg, was taken from the shipping containers Brown uses to store his outdoor business equipment at Bexley Reserve.

"I got a call from the member of the public that said 'did you not lock your containers last night?' And I knew we'd locked them," he said, recalling the moment he realised his business had been targeted.

READ MORE:
Retail thefts cost country $1.2b
Thefts from cars - when, why, how and who
An in-depth look at offending and victims in New Zealand

Brown went straight to the Christchurch City park to find his containers had been breached.

"We're only one of only two operators of the carts in the world, so they were very, very identifiable," he said. "For a start-up business like us it was half of my fleet."

The handmade carts were, however, "useless" to the thieves because without the vehicles specific computers and batteries they were immobile.

"They were total unusable for anyone other than us," Brown said. "I don't know why they would steal them, I guess they thought they could sell the parts off?"

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During the following few months, police hunted down the two men responsible for the crime, eventually catching up to them after fingerprints were left on the containers and at the scene.

Soon enough, a 25-year-old man was charged with burglary and later pleaded guilty to the theft.

While police also arrested another 25-year-old man and charged him with receiving stolen property. He pleaded guilty in March.

"The police did an amazing job, they were relentless," Brown said.

Since being the victim of a crime for the first time, Brown said he doesn't leave as much gear on-site.

"We don't leave as much gear on site, we carry a lot off site now.

"We've improved security and we've installed some new locks on the containers ... we are now a lot less vulnerable.

Advice for retailers to protect themselves

• Well-trained and motivated staff are the most effective deterrent in any store
• Thieves feel uneasy when they are approached by attentive staff, but think about your safety
• Make sure staff know what to do in the event of a robbery
• Trust your instincts
• Don't stereotype - anyone can steal and anything can be stolen
• Review your security. Make sure CCTV cameras have clear lines of sight

Five myths about retail crime

Myth: Retail crime is not a big issue, because people do not usually
get hurt.
Reality: Retail crime costs more than $1 billion a year - and 10 per cent of thefts include an assault, aggressive behaviour toward staff, or disorderly conduct.

Myth: It is okay to steal things from shops because they are big companies and they can afford it.
Reality: The average retailer employs fewer than six staff, and most operate on low single-digit margins.

Myth: I can get away with stealing products.
Reality: Retailers have increasingly good security systems and there is increasing
communication between shopkeepers, other stores and police.

Myth: Retailers are insured, so crime does not matter much.
Reality: Increased crime means higher insurance premiums - and these costs are passed on to consumers.

Myth: There is no harm in buying stolen goods off social media sites.
Reality: Buying stolen goods perpetuates the cycle of crime, and puts you at risk of a conviction.

Source: Retail NZ