Basel police criticised for new 300-franc rule for shoplifting

Basel police criticised for new 300-franc rule for shoplifting

Officials in Basel have registered their concern after new rules around shoplifting were issued by the police. From now, the emergency services will no longer respond to shoplifting cases committed by non-residents of Switzerland, if the value of goods stolen is lower than 300 francs.

Basel police to no longer respond to petty shoplifting

According to a report from Prime News, previously the police would be sent to the scene of shoplifting if the perpetrator did not hold a residence permit, was not a Swiss citizen or was an asylum seeker in Switzerland. Now, the police will not respond to calls if the value of goods stolen is less than 300 francs. The change was confirmed by Basel shop owners and Swiss supermarket Coop, which were made aware of the change on January 16.

So what’s changed? A year ago the police announced that shop owners would have to handle cases of petty shoplifting themselves, asking that they force the thieves to sign a form acknowledging their guilt in the crime. This signed confession would then be sent to the public prosecutor. 

Current system not fit for purpose, argues Basel police

However, the police were still called out to cases involving people claiming asylum and non-residents in Switzerland, as they could not be covered by the form - 20 Minuten noted that in Basel, non-residents of Switzerland make up the majority of shoplifting perpetrators. Instead, perpetrators were forced to pay a deposit as a form of bail.

“But the practice has shown that very few of them carry money on themselves,” noted Basel-Stadt cantonal police spokesperson Rooven Brucker. He added that it therefore made “little police sense” to send out officers “only to discover that the person in question cannot pay bail” and must therefore be let go.

Basel police will still respond in some circumstances

“It is a false idea that shoplifters are led away in handcuffs,” he continued, concluding that responding to shoplifting cases below 300 francs was not an effective use of police time. However, he did say that if someone refuses to identify themselves or chooses to flee from the scene, the police will still be deployed. 

When asked whether staff shortages had led to the change, Brucker noted that the shortage of workers at the Basel police force had forced them to "question" how they respond to crime.

SVP calls for immediate reversal of new shoplifting rules

The change has not gone down well among some lawmakers, with the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) of Basel already announcing that they would be bringing a motion calling for the new rules to be scrapped. SVP Grand Councillor Felix Wehrli told Prime News that the change was “completely unacceptable…It cannot be the case that the police are withdrawing more and more. The perpetrators laugh at us.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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