Police will treat shoplifting like organised crime as part of a crackdown on retail theft after a surge in incidents with 1,000 offences recorded a day.
The crackdown will see a new team of specialist analysts and police officers working together to collect intelligence on criminal gangs that are believed to behind so much of the shoplifting in England and Wales. In the last year, shoplifting has increased by 29%.
Police minister Chris Philp said the “rise in offending is unacceptable and there is much more to do to stop it happening in the first place”.
The ‘action plan to tackle shoplifiting’ follows complaints from retailers that police forces are not doing enough to combat and deter thieves. Even when their security guards detain a suspect, retailers say police have failed to attend 80% of the time.
Following criticism of inaction, police are committing to attend more crime scenes where violence has been used or threatened against staff; when security guards have detained a suspect; or when officers need to secure evidence. Police will also encourage retailers to share CCTV images of suspects for them to use facial recognition to target shoplifters and identify prolific offenders..
Philps posted on social media: “We launched a new action plan to crack down on shoplifting today [October 23].
“We’ll see police attending to arrest suspects, CCTV images run through the facial recognition database, hotspot patrols and repeat offenders relentlessly targeted.”
John Lewis, Tesco, Co-op and ten other of the UK’s biggest retailers have joined together to provide £800,000 over two years to fund Project Pegasus, the BBC reports.. According to a report by ITV, the 13 retailers (including Boots, Primark and M&S) will contribute £30,000 each per year, with £30,000 from the government.
In the last year there have been 365,164 shoplifting offences recorded by the police meaning the government funding “equates to just 8.2p per offence,” ITV states.
The policy has already been derided by Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael, who dismissed the policy as “coppers for cops”.
“Conservative ministers have taken thousands of community officers off the streets, now they’re offering chump change towards tackling this theft epidemic,” said Carmichael.
“Instead of yet more gimmicks that are bound to fail, the home secretary needs to invest in proper community policing and ensure crimes are investigated.
“The government’s current failed approach is letting organised criminal gangs off the hook and leaving shopkeepers vulnerable.”
Police have already said it is “not realistic” to expect them to attend every shoplifting incident despite claims of a “zero tolerance” crackdown on the crime.
While incidents of shoplifting have reached more than 1,000 a day, the proportion of offences resulting in a charge has more than halved from 29.7% in 2018 to just 14% now.