A scheme launched today by Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) will target thieves and low-level criminals who are attempting to dodge outstanding fines.
Operation Crackdown is a re-enactment of the enforcement blitz conducted during February last year which saw 9,425 warrants executed and £1.02 million collected across England & Wales.
Retailers are some of the most affected people by low level crime and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) supports the actions of the month-long initiative but called for it to be made permanent policy.
Tom Ironside, BRC Director of Business and Regulation, said: “People who steal from shops are criminals and deserve to be punished. It’s wrong that honest customers who pay for their goods end up subsidising thieves.
“The Ministry of Justice has proposed a greater use of fines, but for that to work it is crucial they act as an effective deterrent. Letting offenders get away with not paying fines discourages the police and retailers themselves, who need to have faith in the system.”
More than 170,000 penalty notices for disorders were issued in 2009, 48,000 of which were for retail theft but only 51 per cent were paid.
According to the BRC’s annual Retail Crime Survey published last month, the total value of goods stolen from the sector totalled £137 million over the last 12 months, although shoplifting was down 10.6 per cent compared to the year before.
Last year’s February blitz increased the amount of cash collected by 14.7 per cent year-on-year but the BRC wants this level of enforcement maintained throughout the year.
Ironside added: “Retailer would like to see unpaid penalty notices tackled by a national enforcement unit with powers to take money by other means, such as from benefits or salary payments.
“This month long crackdown by the court service is a very positive move and we would welcome efforts to make this approach a more permanent fixture.”