Shoplifting offences recorded by police in England and Wales have risen to the highest level in 20 years, surpassing figures seen before the coronavirus pandemic for the first time, shows the data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today (25).
Police recorded theft has increased by 9 per cent (to 1.8 million offences) compared with the year ending September 2022. This rise was predominantly the result of increases in shoplifting offences. The year ending September 2023 saw a 32 per cent increase in the number of shoplifting offences recorded compared with the previous year, with 402,482 offences compared with 304,459 offences in the year ending September 2022.
It is the first time since current records began in 2002-03 that the number recorded by police has risen higher than 400,000 and is above pre-pandemic levels. The previous peak of 382,643 was recorded in the year to March 2018.
Catherine Grant, from the ONS, said there was a “mixed picture of crime” but police recorded crime is showing “notable increases in some theft offences, including shoplifting” as well as a rise in thefts of motor vehicles.
Reacting on the data, Paddy Lillis, trade union 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. This 32per 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 the 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 two-thirds of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for 60 per cent of these incidents.
“This Government has repeatedly failed to act in the face of an epidemic of retail crime and rising theft from shops. It was deeply disappointing that there are no measures in their legislative programme to tackle high levels of theft from shops and abuse of shopworkers. Labour has promised to plug the gap by seeking to amend the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill to strengthen the law to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse.
“A protection of shopworkers law, which already exists in Scotland, would be a great start to tackling abuse of retail staff. We also welcome Labour’s other commitments to 13,000 more neighbourhood police with guaranteed patrols in town centres, respect orders to ban repeat offenders and ending the £200 threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft. Labour is clearly offering the change our members need.”