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    Retail crime: Nisa urges police to ensure independent retailers are not left behind

    Owner Ben Selvaratnam poses for a portrait next to a life-sized photo sticker of a police officer outside Freshfields Market food and convenience store, where measures are in place to combat rising levels of shoplifting, in Croydon, south London, Britain, October 10, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville

    Symbol group Nisa has urged the police to ensure all retailers, including independent retailers running their own stores, can feel safe simply doing their job while tackling the issue of retail crime.

    In an open letter published Monday, coinciding with the Respect for Shop Workers week by retail trade union Usdaw, Peter Batt, managing director of Nisa, and Victoria Lockie, head of Retail, said the teams at Nisa hear on a weekly basis from retailers dealing with the ongoing challenge of shoplifting, and the impact that is having both financially and on their own wellbeing.

    “The impact of retail crime is particularly tough for independent retailers, many of whom are open longer hours and can’t afford to hire professional security. These horrific incidents have a long-lasting impact on businesses and a negative impact for the community overall,” they said.

    They highlighted the experience of Nisa retailer Ben Selvaratnam, owner of Freshfields Market in Croydon, a family run store, who has earlier said that shoplifting has become such an issue that they are targeted by three to 10 thefts or attempted thefts a day, costing them hundreds of pounds a week.

    Speaking on Respect for Shop Workers Week, Ben said: “It’s like we must accept that this is the price of running a small business. This is an industry we love but that love is being chipped away at every day by criminals who put our safety and livelihoods at risk.

    “So many people would just say I don’t need this in my life. Why would I work so hard, take so much risk and try and make a living when someone can just walk in at the end of the day and take all the money I’ve earned and walk out with it and there will be no consequences for them?

    “Until things improve, we just have to stay here and try to deal with this ourselves.”

    Retail crime: Nisa urges police to ensure independent retailers are not left behind
    Butcher Kugan Poopalsingam stands at the entrance to Freshfields Market food and convenience store, where he also helps with security to combat rising levels of shoplifting, in Croydon, south London, Britain, October 10, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville

    The British Retail Consortium said this summer shoplifting had risen 27 per cent across ten of the largest cities in the UK, with some cities up as much as 68 per cent. It estimates that shops lost £953 million to customer theft last year – the greatest loss on record in recent years.

    And official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting rose 24 per cent between March 2022 and March 2023.

    Batt and Lockie welcomed the Retail Crime Action Plan announced by policing minister Chris Philp, committing to tackle shoplifting, catch more offenders and keep retail workers safe.

    “And while the national action plan is a welcome step – not least the commitments to prioritise urgent attendance at the scene of shoplifting involving violence against a shop worker – we hope the plight of independent retailers is given as much consideration as the larger organizations,” they added.

    The Retail Crime Action Plan, published by the National Police Chiefs Council, sets out a series of guidelines for the police on the following areas:

    • Prioritising attendance at the scene of crimes where violence has been used
    • The use of facial recognition technology to check CCTV evidence against the Police National Database
    • Identifying ‘hot spot’ locations where additional patrols would be beneficial
    • Dealing with organised crime through the creation of a new dedicated intelligence team
    • How retailers should report crimes when they occur

    Philp – also MP for Croydon South where Ben’s store is located – said: “I want a new zero-tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting. It is a blight on our high streets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change.”

    Although welcoming the suggested plan, Ben would still like to see a more visible police presence on the high street to enable swifter action against offenders.

    “We welcome the action and hope to see the authorities attend as many of these incidents as possible, but the proof will be in the numbers over the coming months. If these offenders know there will be serious consequences for their actions, I’m certain the rate of these incidents will reduce but we need Police action now to get us to that position.”

    Batt and Lockie urged independent retailers to ensure they are reporting crime, to give themselves the best chance of police action, while asking the police to ensure independent retailers are ‘not left behind in the race to tackle retail crime’.

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