The recession has triggered a huge increase in both shoplifting and abuse of retail staff.
The British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2009 shows that the number of thefts from shops rose by a third in a year, with an incident occurring almost every minute, 24 hours a day. In the same period violence and abuse against shop staff doubled.
Retail crime of all types cost UK shops £1.1bn in 2008/09, a 10% increase on the previous year and equivalent to 72,000 retail jobs.
Stealing by customers accounted for the biggest share of all retail crime both by the number of incidents (94%) and by monetary value (42%).
For the first time the BRC survey assessed the proportion of retail crimes not reported to the police. The consortium believes that two-thirds of customer thefts are not reported and that the actual number of shoplifting incidents was over 1m.
The survey also reveals that physical violence against shop workers rose 58% in the year, while verbal attacks were up 37%. At least 22,000 retail employees suffered some sort of abuse.
Commenting on the figures, BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The increase in retail crime during the recession can’t be justified as a move from ‘greed’ to ‘need’. Whatever the motivation, shoplifting is never victimless or acceptable. The cash costs are met by honest customers who end up paying more, and the human costs by shop staff who intervene.
“The police and criminal justice system must take retail theft more seriously. There’s been some progress but, with a fifth of retailers saying they don’t report crime because they have no confidence in the police and two-thirds of shop thefts going unreported, not enough.”
He said there should be tougher sentencing to deter thieves and more consistent use of fixed penalty notices between police forces, and that too many fines for shoplifting remain unpaid. He also said that “the doubling in violence and abuse against retail staff is the biggest concern of all”.