Shoplifting Hits 20-Year Peak in England and Wales

Police forces in England and Wales reported over 430,000 shoplifting cases last year, up from 315,000 in the previous year. These figures are the highest in 20 years, prompting opposition parties to criticise policing budgets.

Shocking Rise in Case Numbers

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Official police data in England and Wales shows that there were 430,104 cases of shoplifting last year, up from 315,040 in 2022. 

Office for National Statistics Confirms the Figures

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Catherine Grant, from the Office for National Statistics, said there were “notable increases in some theft offences, including shoplifting”.

Case Numbers Beat Previous Record

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The highest number was set in 2018 when 382,642 cases were reported to the police. This year is the first time it has exceeded 400,000 since records began in 2002.

Cost of Living Likely Part of the Cause

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Social media commentary suggests that the increase in shoplifting cases is no surprise because so many people are struggling to afford basic necessities due to the rising cost of living.

Impacts of Shoplifting Hitting Businesses Hard

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Estimates from the British Retail Consortium suggest that shoplifting cost businesses around £1.7bn last year. This cost is partly passed onto the consumer.

Increase in Shoplifting Leads to Retailer Action

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As a result of the massive uptick in shoplifting numbers, many retailers have taken action. Some items such as alcohol, baby formula and even some basics such as meat and cheese are now being security tagged. 

Smaller Stores Impacted More

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James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores, said the figures show a “fraction of the true picture of shop theft”.” Although the figures concern all stores, the reality is that smaller convenience stores and independent shops don’t have the cash reserves to withstand the issue. 

Security Is Harder to Install in Smaller Shops

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Independent retailers often don’t have the budget to install state-of-the-art CCTV or employee security guards. They also can’t always put security tags on items, so they are hit proportionately harder. 

Theft Often Accompanied by Violence

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CEO of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, said that “despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing.” It’s causing huge issues in the industry. 

Industry Body Giving Police and Government Clearer Picture

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Graham Wynn from the British Retail Consortium said, “Inadequate police action had given criminals free rein to steal goods. Not only has the number of thefts increased, but thieves are becoming bolder, more aggressive, and more frequently armed with weapons.”

Shoplifting One Problem – Policing the Other

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Many retailers say that even when the crimes are reported, the police are unwilling/unable to do much about it. MD of Co-op Food, Matt Hood, said: “Police officers currently attended just two in 10 thefts.”

Number 10 Comments

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Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said: “We’d always want to do more to combat shoplifting. I think there is work that has been done, particularly with private companies, about how we can go further to tackle this issue.”

Shadow Home Secretary on the Issue

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Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Despite repeated warnings from retailers, communities, and from Labour that action was needed to tackle soaring shoplifting and abuse affecting our town centres, these figures show that shoplifting has surged by a further 37 per cent in the last 12 months alone to its highest ever recorded level, with ruinous consequences for our town centres and high streets. 

Lib Dems Are Not Happy Either

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Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Under this Government, criminals are getting let off scot-free. Every day, the unsolved crime epidemic gets worse as burglaries go unsolved, car thefts get left by the wayside and community policing gets decimated.

Policing Figures Show Scale Resourcing Problem

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Official figures showed nearly 2.2 million crimes went unsolved in 2023, which is almost 6,000 every day. Police forces say they simply don’t have the resources to deal with this amount of crime. 

Officer Numbers Increasing

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The House of Commons Library shows we have 171,000 police officers in the UK, the highest number since 2010. That doesn’t quite tell the whole story though. Budget cuts have reduced the number employed in police support roles (forensics, admin staff, community support etc).

More Officers, but Less Support

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Gavin Stephens, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said, “We’ve got 6,000 police officers that are in roles that should be done by police staff.” So thousands of officers aren’t actually policing – they’re in roles that used to be done by police staff.

Austerity Hurt the Police

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The government will point to the fact that they’ve added thousands of police officers to the UK force, but the reality is all they’ve done is almost match the size of the force they inherited. Years of austerity saw them cut thousands of officers, and they’ve only just replaced them.

Tories Will Be Embarrassed by the Figures

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Despite their ‘get tough on crime’ rhetoric, the Tories will be embarrassed to see these numbers at record highs. It’ll certainly do their chances of re-election no good when voters head to the ballot box. 

The post Shoplifting Hits 20-Year Peak in England and Wales first appeared on Now.

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