10 of Britain’s largest retailers are coming together to fund a new police operation to crack down on shoplifting, as part of a wider effort to show zero tolerance towards this brazen crime.
According to the recent reports, under the partnership Project Pegasus, police forces will run each CCTV image of shoplifting offences provided by retailers through the Police National Database, which includes facial recognition technology.
Described as game-changer by police chiefs, the new partnership will give them a national picture of where shoplifting gangs are operating and the shops they are targeting.
Pegasus will receive £600,000 from ten supermarkets and retailers including John Lewis, Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Next. Chris Philp, the policing minister, has tasked police leaders with drwing up a target list of prolific shoplifters to create a national shoplifting database that can be circulated to retailers and police forces across the country.
Philp has asked police to report back within six to eight weeks with a “zero-tolerance plan to target shoplifting”, arguing that shoplifting creates a sense of lawlessness.
It comes as recent figures show staggering amount of crime in retail. In the 12 months to March, police recorded nearly 340,000 cases of shoplifting in contrast to the figures given by British Retail Consortium that estimates about eight million incidents, costing the industry almost £1 billion.
Only 48,218 incidents of shoplifting reported by the police were charged, 14 per cent, while 183,450 investigations, or 54 per cent, were closed with no suspect being identified.
The huge spike in shoplifting has been driven by organised crime groups who reportedly target higher value items from supermarkets such as steaks and bottles of alcohol en masse that they sell direct to market owners, pubs, corner shops and through other means.
During a meeting held on Thursday (7) between ministers, police chiefs and representatives from leading supermarkets and retailers, police laid out three cohorts who shoplift. There are the opportunists, who are often younger and less predictable or prolific; adult offenders who are driven by an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling and tend to be prolific; and individuals who are working for organised gangs, which pose the biggest threat to retailers as they target the highest value and biggest volume of goods, Times stated in a report.
Philp said this approach was vital to ensure Britain does not fall victim to the type of shoplifting epidemic that hit San Francisco.