Shopkeepers feel abandoned

Early results from the survey, to be published on October 11, indicate that retailers believe the Government and the police are not seriously committed to tackling retail crime.

Findings include:
• 90 per cent believe retail crime is low on the Government’s agenda.

• 86 per cent of retailers believe the Government is failing to properly address the issue.

• 77 per cent are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with police response times.

• Just five per cent believe police treat retail crime as anything other than a low or very low priority.

Says BRC Director General Kevin Hawkins: “These figures show shopkeepers feel they have been abandoned. Attempting to hand shoplifters over to the police has become time wasting and futile. Too often they are not interested and even when there is a successful prosecution the penalties are derisory. A lot of store managers are now resigned to the fact that their own efforts at beating the crooks will not be supported.”

The new BRC figures come as the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) consults on its widely criticised proposal to further water down penalties for shoplifting. They include removing the threat of prison from even the worst repeat offenders.

The SAP’s own research shows 95 per cent of those convicted of shop theft had at least one conviction and, on average, each offender had been sentenced 19 times before.

The BRC believes that a combination of weak penalties and poor enforcement has led to the proliferation of shop crime. It is calling on both the Government and police forces to recognise the significant negative impact retail crime has on retailers, communities and the economy and to make it a greater priority.

Kevin Hawkins continues: “The retail industry has poured billions of pounds into state-of-the-art security systems designed to detect and detain shoplifters, but this investment is not as effective as it should be because law makers and enforcers fail to treat shop theft seriously.

“This is no victimless crime. Ultimately the costs fall on honest shoppers and retailers. For some retailers, especially smaller ones, the losses may even threaten their viability.

“Failure to tackle shoplifting significantly undermines efforts to reduce other forms of crime. It’s an entry-level offence. The worst offenders quickly graduate to other forms of crime. Ministers and police chiefs need to recognise retail crime has consequences. I urge them to work with retailers, not abandon them.”

John Smith, Vice President for Retail at ADT, which is sponsoring this year’s Retail Crime Survey, adds: “ADT understands concerns expressed by many retailers in this survey and would support vigorous debate towards a satisfactory conclusion for all parties.

“We will continue to work diligently with retailers of all sizes across the sector to ensure they have the very best technology to combat crime and support their loss prevention strategies.”

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