Shoplifting Rates in England & Wales Hit 20-Year High

Kallum Gethins By Kallum Gethins Apr21,2024
Skynews Shoplifting Stealing 6454543

The incidence of shoplifting in England and Wales has reached its highest level in more than twenty years, surging by nearly one-third within a year, as indicated by the latest crime statistics. Data from the Office for National Statistics show that police recorded 402,482 incidents of shoplifting in England and Wales during the twelve months leading up to September 2023, marking the first time this figure has surpassed 400,000 since record-keeping began in 2002.

These figures highlight the escalating challenge faced by many retailers dealing with theft from their premises, with the British Retail Consortium estimating that such retail crime cost businesses £1.7bn last year. The number of incidents rose by 32% compared to the previous twelve months, exceeding the previous high of 382,642 incidents recorded in 2018. This rise in shoplifting has prompted some supermarkets to implement security measures such as tagging products like baby formula, butter, and cheese or reducing the number of items displayed on shelves.

The ongoing cost of living crisis is widely seen as one of the primary drivers behind the increasing number of shoplifting incidents, with household spending feeling the squeeze. Additionally, retailers report an increase in organized criminal groups targeting their stores, further fueling the problem.

In response to this growing issue, the government launched an action plan in October that includes measures like creating a specialized team to tackle organized criminals responsible for targeted incidents. Police have also pledged to prioritize responding to incidents involving attacks on shop workers or where security guards have detained offenders.

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Despite these efforts, many cases of shoplifting are going unpunished, with reports indicating that police attended only about two out of ten incidents reported by Co-op Food workers. Furthermore, proposed measures by the justice secretary suggest that criminals facing jail sentences of less than 12 months may receive suspended sentences and community service, with shoplifters among the groups expected to benefit.

The overall number of crimes recorded by police in England and Wales for the year up to September 2023 stood at 6.7 million, up 1% from the previous year and higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019-2020 at 6.1 million.

Catherine Grant of the ONS noted a “mixed picture of crime,” with notable increases in theft offenses like shoplifting and motor vehicle thefts. The prime minister’s spokesperson acknowledged the need for more action against shoplifting, particularly through collaboration with private companies to address the issue.

The surge in shoplifting has also taken a toll on retailers financially, costing them about £1.8bn, a record amount, surpassing the £1bn mark for the first time, according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium. Additionally, violence and abuse against shop workers saw a significant spike, reaching about 1,300 incidents daily, marking a 50% increase from the previous year, with around 8,800 of these incidents resulting in injuries throughout the year.

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