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    ‘Brazen thieves selling goods on Facebook’

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    Brazen thieves are selling goods at Facebook Marketplace while retailers are being forced to replace packs of detergent with dummy boxes, states a new report, calling on the government to make attacking a shop worker a standalone criminal offence.

    According to recent report titled Stealing With Impunity, by Emmeline Taylor, a professor of criminology at City, University of London, “a state of lawlessness on the UK high street which has never been seen before”. Shoplifters have progressed from stealing basketfuls of steaks to using builder’s sacks and suitcases to loot goods which are stolen to order or sold on Facebook.

    The research, prepared in partnership with the Co-op, reported that the retailer tracked its stolen wine and meat for sale in restaurants. In Manchester, Co-op staff said that a neighbouring pub had a stall which sold its stolen goods and its workers had been barred from drinking there.

    Some staff claimed they had been reprimanded by police for reporting shoplifters and threatened with a warning by an officer if they were to contact the police again. Employees who do report thefts to police spoke of their fears about walking in their communities and being recognised by an offender who they have spoken out against. Some have been threatened and as a result are now not reporting the crimes to police.

    Another shop in Manchester reported a local woman “brazen enough” to put stolen products such as meat, chocolates and coffee on a community Facebook page “ten minutes after it’s dropped off [by thieves] at her back door”.

    The report called on Facebook to regulate its Marketplace to make it harder for thieves to sell goods online.

    The report puts forward a ten-point plan to tackle the problem, including making attacking a shop worker a standalone criminal offence. Last year the Co-op recorded almost 1,000 incidents of shoplifting every day across its 2,400 stores, a 44 per cent increase on the previous year. There were more than 1,325 physical assaults against its staff last year, up by a third — equivalent to three or four workers attacked every day.

    The Times quotes Taylor as saying, “Retail crime not only impacts on a business’s ability to operate safely and profitably but also causes serious harm to shop workers, both physically and mentally, and to communities that are blighted by persistent offending. The police in England and Wales have lost grip on the scale and severity of acquisitive crime and, in turn, retailers have lost confidence in them and the wider criminal justice system.

    “My report sets out ten actionable recommendations to turn the tide on the current tsunami of shop theft. By taking decisive action to tackle high-volume, high-impact retail crime, the police and retail industry can work together to create safer communities in which to live, work and shop.”

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