Bira, the British Independent Retailers Association, has welcomed the recent pledge by police forces across England and Wales to pursue every lead that holds a reasonable chance of apprehending criminals and solving crimes.
BIRA, which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, said this ‘back-to-basics’ approach marks a significant milestone in addressing the rising concerns of retail crime, particularly theft and violence, from an independent trader’s perspective.
Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre, said it was important that all crimes be reported for the method to work properly.
He said: “We must stress the need to report these crimes, as it is the most effective way to prompt police prioritisation. Our collaboration with law enforcement is crucial to restoring safety and confidence among retailers.
“Over the past few weeks, Bira has been actively raising concerns about the surge in retail crime and its impact on the independent retail sector. This initiative led to us meeting with the Minister for Policing, Police and Crime Commissioners, Chief Constables, and other retail groups, reaffirming the urgent need to address these issues and bolster retailer confidence,” he added.
Bira’s contribution to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) survey further highlights the severity of the situation.
“The survey reveals a staggering 27 per cent increase in reported incidents over the past 12 months, with the total value of theft exceeding £2.8 billion. This escalating problem, coupled with escalating violence towards retail employees, necessitates a more proactive approach from relevant authorities.
“Shop theft, while not new, has flourished due to years of low prioritisation by the police, resulting in a low-risk, high-reward environment that now involves highly organised elements. Independent retailers have voiced their concerns, likening the problem to looting incidents, with offenders growing increasingly audacious,” added Mr Goodacre.
To regain control of our high streets, Bira advocates for several critical measures:
- Simplifying the process of reporting crimes and submitting relevant evidence, addressing the hours-long ordeal faced by some retailers when completing online forms.
- Targeting regular offenders with prosecutions and banning orders, as a high percentage of crimes are committed by this group.
- Providing clarity on the use of evidence and images, including CCTV and mobile recordings.
- Increasing police presence on high streets, leveraging the higher numbers of police officers and PCSOs.
Ensuring that convictions lead to custodial sentences for perpetrators.
- Dismantling the networks employed by organised criminals to traffic stolen goods.
High streets have confronted numerous challenges in recent years, from the Covid pandemic to a cost-of-living crisis. Failing to curb shop theft and anti-social behaviours threatens to transform our high streets into no-go zones, endangering a vital aspect of our society.
Figures show that despite the growth of online shopping, more than 70 per cent of retail sales still occur in physical stores. High streets foster community interactions, social gatherings, and meaningful connections. Bira acknowledges that while the retail landscape is evolving, our high streets remain essential for creating welcoming and safe spaces.
Mr Goodacre added: “Isolation is detrimental to people, as we’ve learned from Covid. High streets provide contact, social gatherings, and interaction – they require our support now more than ever to ensure their preservation.”
“The commitment by police forces to pursue leads and solve crimes is a significant step towards achieving this goal. Bira stands ready to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to enhance security and safety on our high streets.”