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    UK launches new Retail Crime Action Plan to tackle prolific offenders

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    National Police Chiefs Council today (23) published the Retail Crime Action Plan, setting out a series of guidelines for the police.

    Under the new plan, police will work 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

    The publication of the plan follows a meeting between the Policing Minister Chris Philp MP and retail business leaders, where further details have been outlined about the next steps for Operation Pegasus, including a new information sharing platform for retailers and police forces.

    Crime and Policing Minister, Chris Philp said, “I want a new zero-tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting. It is a blight on our highstreets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change. While it is encouraging to see a 29% increase in charges for shoplifting in the past year, the rise in offending is unacceptable and there is much more to do to stop it happening in the first place. That’s why we’re taking action and bringing together government, policing and business to commit to smarter, more joined up working when it comes to retail crime, which will help to drive down criminal behaviour and rebuild public confidence in the police response when it does occur.”

    The Pegasus initiative is a business and policing partnership that will radically improve the way retailers are able to share intelligence with policing, to better understand the tactics used by organised retail crime gangs and identify more offenders. This will include development of a new information sharing platform and training for retailers. Spearheaded by Katy Bourne, the Business Crime lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Pegasus is the first national partnership of its kind, and is backed by the Home Office, John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots, Primark and several more, who have collectively pledged to provide over £600,000 to get the initiative off the ground.

    The majority of funding for Pegasus will go towards the creation of a dedicated team of specialist analysts and intelligence officers to work within OPAL – the national policing team that oversees intelligence on serious organised acquisitive crime, run by Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Taylor and overseen by North Wales Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman. Pegasus will deliver a new digital interface to streamline information sharing between retailers and the police and also provide training for retailers on appropriate information and intelligence to share with policing.

    PCC Katy Bourne and APCC National Lead for Business and Retail Crime said: “Pegasus will be game changer in the fight against retail crime providing for the first time an accurate national picture of the organised groups from local families to cross border criminals driving organised shop theft.  Retailers will agree ways to capture information that can be shared and analysed to create intelligence packages for police forces to target and track perpetrators. I am very grateful to all the contributors to Pegasus and to Mitie in particular for helping to get Pegasus airborne.”

    Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the publication of the new Retail Crime Action Plan, which sets out the way that police should respond to and investigate thefts against convenience stores and other retail businesses.

    Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said, “The publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan sets a clear marker that the torrent of thefts and other offences committed against businesses will be taken seriously by police forces and the government and will be strongly welcomed by both large and small retailers. Convenience retailers are facing unprecedented levels of theft against their businesses at the hands of prolific offenders who are targeting stores repeatedly without fear of reproach. These incidents take a huge toll on retailers and their colleagues, so it’s crucial that every incident reported to the police gets investigated and is something that we have been calling for in conversations with ministers and police representatives.

    “Using artificial intelligence to identify prolific offenders can be an effective way of drastically reducing the amount of police time it takes to make links between crimes committed against different businesses locally, and we hope that this will encourage more retailers to submit CCTV evidence of theft when it occurs to help make the link between crimes that have previously been seen as separate offences. Whether its artificial intelligence or local intelligence that leads to criminals being identified, the real challenge still remains apprehending these people and putting in place effective interventions to break the cycle of reoffending.”

    The full Retail Crime Action Plan is available here.

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