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    Data protection rules pulling back retailers from ‘shaming’ shoplifters

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    Data protection laws are pulling back retailers in tackling shoplifting as they are unable to put up pictures of suspected shoplifters in stores to help employees keep an eye out for repeat offenders and deter criminals, retail chiefs have said calling for clarification on the same.

    Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told Telegraph that stores should be allowed to publish CCTV images of thieves stealing without breaking the law “in light of police inaction”.

    “The police are not doing anything about it and we are left to just put up with it.”

    Hannbeck said the data watchdog should issue clearer guidance on the rules around releasing images of suspected shoplifters, stating how many pharmacies were increasingly facing violent and abusive shoplifters, since the incidents were not seen as a priority crime by police.

    “The thieves are aware of this and becoming brazen. The police will never come immediately when a theft is reported. They often will not come out at all and we have to supply the CCTV images to them, and even when the images are clear and the thief is known to the police they take no action.”

    Under current data rules, supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies risk falling foul of the law if they adopt a blanket policy of releasing these images.

    Lucy Brown, heads of security and fraud at John Lewis, said the retailer had to be “very careful about what we share” under data protection laws.

    It comes amid growing frustration that police are ignoring a surge in shoplifting due to which retailers are forced to come up with their own solutions to tackle the crime like issuing bodycams to staff, keeping higher priced items under lock and key and displaying the dummy under “ask at till”.

    John Lewis said it was not able to display images of suspected shoplifters in its stores unless police were involved and even then the pictures could only be displayed in back offices, far from tills and shop exits.

    “Data protection rules mean that it’s risky for retailers to publish details of suspected offenders, as they may end up committing an offence themselves,” the Association of Convenience Stores told Telegraph.

    Retailers are frustrated given what is seen as the lack of action from police to address a surge in theft. In a report released by Co-op earlier this month, the retailer states that police were not responding to more than 70 per cent of call-outs over serious crimes in its stores.

    Cases of crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour were up 35 per cent year-on-year, the company said, as criminal gangs target stores to steal goods such as coffee, alcohol and baby formula, states the report.

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