ONS data reveals decline in shoplifting; Home office data, sloppy follow-up

retail crime
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The police recorded shoplifting incidents have seen an annual decline of two percent, according to the latest ONS data.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales, published Thursday, records 374,395 incidents of shoplifting for the year ended on March 2019.

The ACS said this could be more of a reflection of under reporting and forces screening out theft offences.

“The decline in shop theft is welcome news, but is more likely attributed to under-reporting of shop theft offences as retailers have little confidence that police forces will respond,” commented James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS.

New figures published today (Friday) by the Home Office – revealing that just 7.8 percent of crimes reported in the last year resulted in a charge or summons for offenders – is a vindication of this, he added.

The data from the Crime Outcomes in England and Wales report represents a decline of 9.1 percent from the previous year.

The report outlines the different ways that reported crimes are dealt with by police. Across all crime, 44.4 percent of investigations result in no suspect being identified, rising to 74.4 percent for theft offences.

For theft offences, the amount of time taken for the police to reach an outcome for an investigation has fallen drastically in recent years. In 2016, investigations for theft offences were concluded after an average of seven days, but over the last year the average time to assign an outcome is now just two days.

“These figures demonstrate why retailers are frustrated with the response to crimes that they report,” Lowman added.

“Only one in four thefts results in a suspect being identified, with less time being spent on cases before being dropped. This is despite millions of pounds being spent by retailers on crime prevention that appears to be being ignored, or at best, underutilised by the police.”

The Crime Survey has found an increase of 7 percent in violence resulting in injury and of 16 percent in violence without injury.

Lowman said these figures will “ring true with retailers’ and shop workers’ experience of violence and abuse,” calling on the government to address root causes of the problem.

“Our research clearly shows that shop theft is the number one trigger for violence in stores, failure to address shop theft therefore risk elevation to violent offences,” he said.

“[The] figures … reinforces the need for the government to act quickly and decisively to tackle violence against shop workers through tougher penalties for offenders and tackling the root cause of offending, such as drug addiction, by a reviewing the use of fines and cautions issued by police.”