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Shoplifting in British supermarkets on the rise

Sky News logo Sky News 01/02/2019
a person holding a bag: Officers were called to investigate more than 78,000 shoplifting incidents in 2017 © Getty Officers were called to investigate more than 78,000 shoplifting incidents in 2017

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Shoplifting in British supermarkets has increased by more than 7% in the last four years, police figures show.

Officers were called to investigate more than 78,000 shoplifting incidents in 2017, according to statistics released by 25 forces in England and Wales.

This was up from 74,662 the previous year, 74,124 in 2015, and 72,423 in 2014.

Read more: Shoplifter's order wish list for customers recovered by police (Press Association)

But retailers have warned the numbers of reported thefts "pale in comparison to the reality" - with an estimated 950,000 incidents last year.

James Martin, a crime and security adviser with the British Retail Consortium, said the costs of shoplifting ultimately fall on the shoulders of shoppers and shop owners.

He said: "We acknowledge the difficult resourcing and prioritisation decisions which police forces face, but it is clearly time that every police force gives retail crime the strategic priority it deserves."

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) said cuts to forces meant there is simply not enough officers to deal with the workload.

John Apter, PFEW's national chairman, said: "It's all about priorities.

"The sad fact is that as forces struggle to meet 999-call demand, incidents such as these are increasingly likely not to be attended by officers at all which, as a serving police constable with 26 years' service, I find quite shocking."

Retailers have raised concerns about a £200 threshold for shoplifting offences © Getty Retailers have raised concerns about a £200 threshold for shoplifting offences Retailers have previously raised concerns about police often not investigating the theft of items worth less than £200.

It comes after a £200 threshold was introduced in England and Wales in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The act allows anyone stealing goods costing less than £200 to plead guilty by post or face magistrates' court. They may then face a fine or up to a year in prison.

The latest shoplifting figures do not reveal the full extent of this kind of crime in the UK as 18 police forces either provided only partial data, did not respond to requests for data or withheld data.

"The numbers of reported thefts pale in comparison to the reality of retail crime," said James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores.

"In total, we estimated over 950,000 incidents of theft in convenience stores last year."

He added that more than half of thefts are not reported in the convenience sector because of an expectation that police will not investigate or prosecute thieves.

"Challenging offenders in store often leads to violent incidents which have a huge personal impact on retailers and shop workers," Mr Lowman said.

"Only government action can break the cycle of more theft, violence, inadequate police response and ineffective sanctions."

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