Incidents of shoplifting in England and Wales are up 5 per cent to 349,670 offences according to the latest Office of National Statistics Report but the NFRN fears that this could be the thin end of the wedge as many independent retailers are unwilling to report these crimes.

Commenting on the latest statistics, NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter warned: “We know from our members that there is a significant level of under-reporting of retail crime and of shop theft in particular. The NFRN’s Retail Crime Survey 2015 found that when members were asked why they did not report shop theft to the police, 25 per cent of respondents said ‘police did not respond’, whilst 34 per cent said that it took ‘too much of their time’. A further 33 per cent said that they believed that the police were unable to adequately prosecute shoplifters.”

With the Home Office’s Victimisation Survey 2014 also revealing that only 44 per cent of shop thefts were reported to the police,  Mr Baxter added: “This would mean that despite the ONS reporting a 5 per cent increase last year, the likelihood is that it is actually much higher.”

Mr Baxter pointed to the latest statistics from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) which showed that the approximate number of customer related thefts in the UK retail industry stood at 3.4 million incidents, an increase from 2.5 million in the previous year and accounting for more than £343 million lost as a direct result of shop theft.

Meanwhile, Freedom of Information requests obtained by the NFRN from police authorities across England and Wales revealed that responses to shop theft incidents and prosecution rates varied, creating a “postcode lottery” for crime victims.

This is clear when response times from Leicestershire are compared with Thames Valley, and Bedfordshire with Cheshire. Each group has similar budgets and similar levels of shoplifting.

Group A Group B
Leicestershire Thames Valley Bedfordshire Cheshire
Urgent Response 3% 50% 39% 21%
Immediate Response 24% 44% 29% 44%
Appointment / Deferred 12% 2% 17% 34%
Not Attended 61%

 

Telephone 4%

From the FOI requests, the NFRN found that supermarkets were more likely to get an urgent or immediate response when reporting a shop theft than independent retailers.

Mr Baxter said: “Shop theft is a crime that dogs independent retailers on a daily basis and it is not victimless. The NFRN is concerned that incidents are on the increase, as laid bare in this latest ONS report, but what is far worrying is that we believe that the incidents recorded are the thin end of the wedge and are actually far higher. Sadly, there is a reluctance from independent retailers to report these crimes to the police.

“The NFRN wants to see the police, courts and government doing more to tackle retail crime as this will give independent retailers more confidence to report incidents. To raise awareness we are currently meeting with all Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, as well as highlighting the problems our members are facing at the National Retail Crime Steering Group.”

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