Reports of shoplifting have nearly doubled over the past year as retailers blame the government for its “effective decriminalisation”.
The Association of Convenience Store’s (ACS) 2018 Crime Report has revealed a sharp increase in offenses committed in the sector, rising to 950,000 from 575,000 a year prior, the equivalent of 200 thefts an hour.
It also stated that the total cost of crimes committed has cost the convenience sector £193 million, equating to a 7p “crime tax” on every transaction.
The sharp rise has been attributed to government legislation which states anyone caught stealing less than £200 will not be pursued by police and will be dealt with by post.
Late last year, The Telegraph reported that this was leading to “prolific and persistent” offenders to abuse the system stealing just under £200 of goods with minimal repercussions.
“There is huge frustration around shop theft because there is a sense among retailers that nothing is being done to deter shoplifters,” a senior industry source told the publication.
“If you steal items worth less than £200 you don’t have to go to court. Most cases are dealt with by out of court disposals, such as a fine and shoplifters learn how the system works.
“Criminals are learning how the system operates in different parts of the country. They know they are unlikely to be challenged, but even if they are the penalties are not acting as a deterrent.”
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers and their staff are facing violence and abuse on a regular basis for enforcing the law, whether it be through challenging shop thieves, refusing the sale of age restricted products like tobacco and alcohol, or refusing to serve people that are intoxicated.
“Allowing shop theft to go unpunished means that these people go on to commit other offences, and where they have addiction problems they are not treated.
“We need fresh thinking from government and the police, because when shop theft is not tackled properly, it has wider implications for communities.”