A hidden tolerance seems to exist when it comes to shoplifting and it’s time we questioned this complacency.
Contrary to common belief, retailers don’t absorb the costs of shoplifting in their outgoings - they pass them on to the consumer who eventually pays over the odds.
Another myth is that shoplifting only dents profits. In reality, when a shoplifter steals an item, the store not only loses the profit on the product but must also recover the entire cost of item itself which is only achievable by selling more products to recoup the loss. Significant income losses can result in staff cutbacks and even closure, which have financial repercussions on the individuals affected.
For practical reasons, retailers must build the costs of shoplifting into their budgets but too often this crime is regarded as ‘inevitable’.
Last year, losses for retail businesses amounted to £1.6bn in the UK – 39% of which was shop theft. Fewer than 10% of shoplifting cases are ever reported to the police. This means the true scale of the problem is largely concealed. Crime across Nottinghamshire is stabilising but shoplifting is one area which shows no signs of diminishing. This is something which simply cannot be ignored.
We have invested significant resources into detecting and deterring shoplifting and are working with the private sector in the shape of a new board called Police and Business Crime in Nottinghamshire (PABCIN). The organisation analyses intelligence relating to very low-level crime, liaising with shopkeepers and police to share information on offenders while recording intelligence on a database.
I have committed £10,000 of funding to PABCIN while a further £10,000 has been earmarked to enhance detection rates. The aim is to improve detection capabilities and early results indicate this is improving. However, prevention is still a key area to address and this requires a bigger commitment from retailers themselves.
We have also studied the offending patterns of 63 offenders which has highlighted the limited benefits of prison, especially where sentences are too short.
Evidently, we need to focus our attention on the early part of the offending cycle when we can stop the offence occurring altogether. I have recently funded 20 extra GPS tags to be developed for shoplifting prevention purposes and we expect to work very closely with the Reducing Re-offending Partnership over the monitoring process in an effort to prevent them coming into shops.
The investment we are channelling into shoplifting is proof of how determined the Force is to tackle the problem. But we cannot do it alone.