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    Record shoplifting rate reported in Northern Ireland

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    Industry has expressed deep concern as crime statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) show a 20 per cent uplift in shoplifting in the last twelve months.

    The spike in shoplifting is at odds with the overall crime figures, which show a drop in the past year.

    Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Deputy Chief Constable Chris Todd said the statistics were “very welcome” though there were some “areas of concern particularly relating to hate-motivated incidents and shoplifting”.

    There were 8,979 recorded incidents of shoplifting in Northern Ireland between April 2023 and March 2024, compared to 7,511 recorded in the previous financial year. Despite this, theft offences generally remain lower than pre-pandemic, while criminal damage and burglary levels fell to the lowest levels recorded.

    Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Neil Johnston, called for the PSNI to outline a plan of action.

    “It is not just an issue of scale; retailers talk about how the nature of these thefts has changed. Thieves have become bolder and more aggressive, and the impact on retail workers is severe,” he said.

    “The industry is understandably frustrated. While retailers have spent record sums on crime prevention to protect their colleagues, the response from government and law enforcement has been inadequate.”

    PSNI Insp Pete Cunningham said the force was aware that the rise in shoplifting crime “will cause concern”.

    “[We] want business owners and retailers across Northern Ireland to know that we are here to support them and offer advice on how they can protect themselves against criminals,” he said.

    “Our dedicated neighbourhood teams and Crime Prevention Officers are committed to tackling retail crime, which has a significant for business owners and retailers, their staff and the wider local community.”

    Retail trade union Usdaw has also expressed deep concern over the figures.

    Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says, “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime; theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers. PSNI recording a 20 per cent increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning.
     
    “Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in stores and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. Our latest survey results show that 7 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. 60 per cent of respondents said theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for these incidents.
     
    “The scale of assaults, abuse and threats towards shopworkers and extent of the retail crime epidemic has been a disgrace for many years. We have written to the First Minister seeking the introduction of a standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker and we’re looking to meet with the justice minister. Shopworkers, key workers in every community, need the protection of the law to receive the respect that they have long deserved and regrettably too often do not receive.”

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