U.K. Police Urged to Act after Dramatic Increase in Shoplifting

Posted Jan 7, 2010 by Chris Dade
Retailers in the U.K., suffering from a dramatic increase in shoplifting, are urging police to take more action to tackle a problem which cost businesses in the country £1.1 billion ($1.75 billion) during the course of 2009.
Palace of Westminster
London: Palace of Westminster and Westminster Bridge
Justin Norris
Research conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed just how much more of a problem shoplifting became in 2008/2009, a situation that the BRC itself and news organizations such as the Press Association are attributing to the recent recession.
And the conclusion drawn from the latest research is not the first suggestion there has been that the recession is responsible for an increase in retail-related crime.
Back in July, quoting a report compiled by, MCV noted that 47 percent of independent retailers in the U.K. had recently seen a "significant increase in theft", 26 percent of retailers had witnessed an increasing number of break-ins, 31 percent were seeing more credit card fraud and 24 percent were discovering more thefts by their employees.
No indication was given as to the periods of time used to produce the statistics that were reported in July.
However the latest statistics from the BRC for the most part compare 2008 to 2009 and the news for U.K. retailers is not good.
In 2008 there were 2,914 thefts per 100 outlets, a figure which rose by a third to 3,902 thefts per 100 outlets in 2009.
The BRC found that there is a theft committed in a retail outlet for almost every minute of the day, 498,405 thefts being committed in total during 2009.
Furthermore the £1.1 billion ($1.75 billion) lost as a result of the thefts is said to be equivalent to 72,000 jobs in the U.K. retail sector.
Violence and verbal abuse was more common too in 2009, 22,000 retail workers nationwide being victims of violent or abusive customers.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the BRC, highlighted the fact that retail crime is a much greater problem than the research suggests because, lacking confidence in the police and criminal justice system, many retailers do not report crimes that have occurred, as many as two-thirds of thefts apparently going unreported.
Urging the authorities to do more to tackle retail theft Mr Robertson said of his organization's findings:The increase in retail crime during the recession can't be justified as a move from ‘greed' to ‘need'. Whatever the motivation, shoplifting is never victimless or acceptable. The cash costs are met by honest customers who end up paying more and the human costs by shop staff who intervene.
It's shocking that a shop theft happens almost every minute, 24 hours a day. We need tougher sentencing to deter thieves and more consistent use of fixed penalty notices between police forces. Too many fines for shoplifting remain unpaid. We need more effective enforcement so they aren't devalued as a deterrent.
The police and criminal justice system must take retail theft more seriously. There's been some progress but, with a fifth of retailers saying they don't report crime because they have no confidence in the police and two thirds of shop thefts going unreported, not enough.
The doubling in violence and abuse against retail staff is the biggest concern of all. It should never be regarded as ‘part of the job'. Punishments must be strong enough to deter and the police should measure workplace violence when they assess business crime in the community and determine local policing priorities
The BRC conducted its research in December 2009 amongst 60 major stores employing 1.1 million staff, reportedly half the retail market in the U.K.