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    Shocking report shows five times rise in theft in local shops

    Photo: iStock

    Local shops in the UK recorded a shocking 5.6 million incidents of shop theft over the last year, smashing the previous record of 1.1 million incidents recorded in 2023.

    The Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) 2024 Crime Report, released today, outlines the scale of the retail crime crisis blighting communities across the UK. The report reveals that retailers have recorded over 600 incidents of theft an hour over the last year.

    The report also highlights a huge increase in violent incidents committed against retailers and their colleagues. Over the last year, there have been around 76,000 incidents of violence in shops compared to 41,000 in 2023.

    Retailers are doing what they can to fight back by investing in crime prevention and detection measures, with £339 million spent over the last year in areas like CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems, but the figures released today send a clear message to the Government, local forces and police leaders that more action is needed.

    Taken together, the cost of crime and the cost of investing in fighting crime results in a 10p “crime tax” on every transaction that takes place in every store across the UK, up from 6p in 2023.

    “Retailers are facing an onslaught of crime committed against their businesses on a daily basis, with some losing tens of thousands of pounds per year to theft alone. This extended crimewave cannot be allowed to continue. Thieves are known to the community and to the police but they simply do not care, and continue on regardless, filling baskets and trolleys and walking out without fear of reproach,” James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said.

    “There have been positive steps forward made in recent months with the publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan and the launching of Operation Pegasus to try and better identify prolific offenders and bring them to justice, but the figures in our report demonstrate that more needs to be done urgently. Nobody should have to come to work and face what retailers and their colleagues have faced over the last year.”

    SPAR retailer Susan Connolly said, “Convenience stores are increasingly targeted by gangs stealing to order and looting. We share evidence, and I would encourage retailers to report crime every time, but we need to have faith that the police will investigate offences and use that data – particularly to target these organised groups.”

    Freshfields Market owner Benedict Salvaratnam said, “I’ve witnessed firsthand the escalating challenge of shop theft. This issue not only affects our business’ already strained finances, but it also puts our staff and customers in distress. We’ve had to implement significant security measures to protect our premises and people, but crime remains a daily problem for us.”

    Additional findings from the 2024 Crime Report include:

    • The top motivations for repeat offending are drug or alcohol addiction, organised crime and opportunism
    • The top triggers for abuse in stores are encountering shop thieves, enforcing the law on age restricted sales and refusing to serve intoxicated customers
    • 87 per cent of colleagues in convenience stores have faced verbal abuse over the last year
    • Two thirds of retailers (67 per cent) believe that the cost-of-living crisis has led to an increase in theft
    • More than three quarters of retailers (76 per cent) believe organised crime has become more prevalent over the last year

    ACS is calling on central Government to take the following action to support retailers in tacking the UK’s retail crime crisis:

    • Deliver justice for shopworkers and effective sanctions for offenders
    • Focus additional police resources on neighbourhood policing to keep communities safe
    • Support further investment in technology to deter and detect criminals

    The publication of the 2024 Crime Report comes just weeks ahead of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. ACS has been calling on all PCCs to share important information about how they are prioritising retail crime, how retailers can report incidents most effectively, and what strategies are in place to get prolific offenders off the streets.

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