Above: A good Samaritan tackled a man who tried to hold up the Wawa store in Winslow Township at gunpoint. (Video courtesy Winslow Township Police)

As stores continue to struggle against online retailers in the battle for the consumer buck, "shrink," or the disappearance of merchandise because of theft, continues to rise.

Bob Moracaf, the National Retail Federation's vice president of loss prevention, said shrink amounted to almost $49 billion in 2016, up from $45.2 billion the year before. Shoplifting and employee theft were one and two, in that order.

"Those are the two biggest ones — one being 36 percent, the other about 30 percent of those shrink losses," he said.

Administrative paperwork error accounted to 21.3 percent of the losses, and vendor fraud or error another 5.4 percent. Moraca said because money is tight for retailers these days, "loss prevention, sometimes, is one of the first thing that takes those reductions."

"Interestingly enough, this is the third year in a row, out of the last 20 years that we have been doing this survey, that shoplifting or organized gang shoplifting has outpaced the internal threat — in other words the employee theft," he said.

Criminals understand loss prevention isn't what it once was, he said.

"Unfortunately, it reduces manpower. It reduces electronics and technology — and the criminals understand that. Those retail criminals know where to go and what times to go so they play it just right," he said.

Moraca said customers wind up paying the bill for theft in the form of higher prices.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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