Independent retailers have described the government call encouraging shoppers to make a citizen’s arrest of shoplifters as “high risk”.
Chris Philp, the policing minister, has urged members of the public to step in when they see thieves shoplifting by making citizen’s arrests. He also called on retailers to instruct their security guards to intervene when it is safe to do so.
Speaking at a fringe event hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank at the Tory Party conference, Philp said, “The wider public do have the power of citizen’s arrest and, where it’s safe to do so, I would encourage that to be used because if you do just let people walk in, take stuff and walk out without proper challenge, including potentially a physical challenge, then again it will just escalate.
“While I want the faster and better police response, the police can’t be everywhere all the time.”
Muntazir Dipoti, National President of the Federation of Independent Retailers (The Fed), said, “When shop staff challenge thieves they are often subject to abuse and sometimes assault. We tell our staff to never try to physically stop a crime. It goes without saying that we would never want our customers to expose themselves to this high risk either.”
Dipoti said the answer to the runaway increase in shoplifting is increased resources for the police and judiciary, together with better CCTV and other security to help police with their investigations.
“We want the police to be able to attend more crimes and quickly. But the Fed is urging the UK and Scottish governments to provide a £1,500 grant to small shops which can’t afford the security they need.”
The minister said he is also planning to tackle crime levels by enabling facial CCTV images to be matched with information on passport and other government databases. Creating an IT system for this will take about two years.
Under section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, a person “may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”
It comes after figures earlier this year revealed that there has been a 26 per cent rise in shoplifting in the last year, according to the British Retail Consortium.