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Retailers call for police to prioritise“epidemic levels” of shoplifting

Posted: 1 October 2023

By Greg Pitcher

Police car shoplifting theft retail
Retailers call for police to prioritise“epidemic levels” of shoplifting

Small shops have demanded greater police focus on shoplifting as data showed the level of retailer dissatisfaction with the way crime is handled. Senior figures from bodies including the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) and the Federation of Small Businesses wrote to police commissioners in September warning of “unprecedented” levels of theft.

Shoplifting costs retailers £935 million per year, the letter said, and is a “primary trigger for violence and abuse of workers”. An ACS survey found that three in four shops were dissatisfied with the time it took police to respond to an incident, while almost nine in 10 expressed discontent with subsequent investigations.

The joint letter called for simplified processes for reporting crime; greater effort to identify repeat offenders; and proactive collection of evidence relating to violence. ACS chief executive James Lowman called on ministers and police chiefs to take “urgent action” on shoplifting.

“The cost-of-living crisis has increased the level of theft but this isn’t good people falling on hard times and turning to crime, it is organised criminal gangs and addicts,” he claimed. BIRA chief executive Andrew Goodacre said there was “strong anecdotal evidence” that shop theft was “reaching epidemic levels” and impacting retailers of all types and sizes. High-level discussions were underway to tackle the issue, he added, but shops realised the need to act themselves.

“We will see more investment in CCTV and technology that helps identify perpetrators,” Goodacre said. “We have already seen retailers put products such as meats and cheeses into secure packaging and change store layouts. “If this issue escalates, will we see more shops operate like an Argos, with products held in a stock room as opposed to being on display? If the relevant authorities do not prioritise the problem, we will see businesses close as losing stock is the same as losing cash.”

Ten major retailers including Waitrose and the Co-op are to fund a specialist analysis team within the national police intelligence unit for serious organised acquisitive crime.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Shoplifting strikes at the heart of the British high street, and the policing minister has asked forces to take a zero-tolerance approach to this crime and pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry. “We are working with businesses and the police to tackle shoplifting, including supporting Project Pegasus, which will enable retailers to share better information on shoplifting and build up a national strategic picture, helping crack down on serious offenders.”

This article first appeared in the October-November 2023 edition of Fine Food Digest.