Shop thefts rise as police fail to show up in 76% of cases
POLICE are failing to attend hundreds of thousands of shoplifting incidents – which have surged by 43 per cent in a year.
Figures compiled by the Co-op reveal almost 300,000 incidents, often involving abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour, at its stores this year.
The chain complained that officers failed to attend in nearly four out of five cases despite promises from forces and minis-ters to treat shop thefts more seriously. The epidemic often involves organised criminal gangs stealing high- value electrical items, alcohol and cigarettes. The crime has now extended to everyday products from meat, cheese and laundry liquid to nappies and baby for-mula amid rising living costs.
Co-op said it has seen an aver-age of around 1,000 incidents a day across its 2,400 stores this year, which is up by 43 per cent on last year.
These include more than 1,130 physical assaults on staff, up 35 per cent, and more than 36,000 incidents of anti- social behav-iour and abuse, up 39 per cent. The data shows that of the nearly 3,000 occasions this year where specialist security teams detained serious offenders, police failed to show up 76 per cent of the time, leading to a ‘pressure cooker’ environment that puts store workers at risk.
The figures were released at the start of Respect for Shop-workers Week, run by the union USDAW, and the launch of the Government’s Retail Crime Action Plan. This includes a commitment that police forces will attend incidents where the offender is detained.
USDAW general secretary Paddy Lillis said: ‘These find-ings . . . are extremely worrying and need to be addressed because there is an epidemic of shoplifting that too often trig-gers abuse of shopworkers.
‘We are concerned that suc-cessive Government policies give the impression that theft from shops has effectively been decriminalised.’
Co-op managing director Matt Hood said: ‘ We very urgently need to see [the Government’s policy] in action in our stores, so the desperate calls to the police from my frontline colleagues are responded to and the criminals start to realise there are real consequences to their actions.’
Inspector Ollie Vale, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: ‘This is not an issue that the police alone can enforce our way out of.
‘Working with our partners both in public sector and retail and understanding the limitations and challenges being faced allows for better results for victims and offenders.’
Co-op has invested more than £200 million over recent years in staff and store safety and secu-rity, including the latest CCTV technology.
These include body- worn cameras, capturing real-time audio and visual footage at the touch of a button, as well as dummy or empty packaging to deter looting and bulk theft.