Retailers lose faith in police

Shops are spending more than ever on protecting their businesses from crime – but feel they are not getting enough support in doing so from the police and politicians.

This year’s Retail Crime Survey, published by the British Retail Consortium, puts the cost of retail crime at £1.6 billion in 2011-12, a 15.6% increase on the previous year. Expenditure on crime and loss prevention rose 7.1%.

There were rises in a number of types of incidents, including customer and employee thefts, burglary, criminal damage and fraud.

Supermarkets and convenience retailers make up nearly half of the survey sample, based on combined retail space.

Despite the rise in crime, there has been a significant reduction in the number of offences being reported to police.

In 2011, retailers surveyed for the report said they reported all incidents of robbery to the police, but last year one in five cases wasn’t.

Reporting of customer theft dropped from 47% to 12%, meaning that almost nine out of 10 shoplifting offences don’t make it on to police books.

There were also drops in reporting employee thefts (from 35% to 22%), burglary (from 91% to 44%), criminal damage (86% to 25%) and fraud (53% to 35%).

Around 40% of respondents across the board said that the most significant reason for not reporting was because they had little confidence in the police.

It’s possible some of that shift is a reaction to the riots of summer 2011 when many chains saw their properties temporarily surrendered to looters as police resources were overwhelmed, particularly in London, but the BRC says the problem is much wider and ongoing.

Director general Helen Dickinson said: “Systematic targeting of higher-value goods by organised criminals is pushing up the cost of retail crime, but the proportion of shoplifting incidents reported to police plummeted to just one in eight, highlighting just how much there is to do to build retail- ers’ confidence in the way police forces respond.”

She added: “There’s been some success from closer engagement. The BRC’s work with the Met has led to the Mayor’s office recognising retail crime as a force priority in London. But I’m concerned that Police & Crime Commissioners, who are now responsible for determining local crime-fighting priorities elsewhere, are not getting a true picture of the extent of retail crime.

“Retail crime doesn’t just impact on its direct victims but on wider communities. It damages the reputation of local areas and those who steal from shops commit other sorts of crime.

“Retailers are spending more than ever on protecting their customers, staff and stock. They deserve the support of law enforcers and politicians. Staff should have confi- dence to report crime and that action will be taken against those responsible.”

The BRC wants to see police forces work- ing more to identify organised crime gangs that operate across the borders between forces. It also wants retailers to be more proactive in reporting crime so the true nature of offences is better understood by government and law enforcement agencies.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers played down the figures, saying: “There is a lot of work going on with the business community to increase police support.

“One of the issues with the BRC is that it represents mainly larger retailers and there’s a very different type of relationship. They tend not to report things like shoplifting because their internal systems are different and stock can be written off more easily.”

That may be the case, but the BRC figures seem to suggest a marked shift in attitude from stores, even though their structures and policies would have been in place a year ago.

ACPO’s inference is that smaller shops have more confidence in the police, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less likely to be victims of crime.

The Association of Convenience Stores published its own figures in November which showed that 89% of convenience stores were victims of theft in the last year, with 69% suffering verbal or physical abuse.

Just three days after the BRC report came out, the Home Office released figures which showed retailers were more likely than any other business sector to be victims of crime.

The Commercial Victimisation Survey showed that shops experienced an average of 37 incidents per year in retail, compared with 29 across manufacturing, transport, hotels and catering

ACS chief executive James Lowman described the figures as “shocking”. He added: “More action is needed from police, local authorities and central government to take crime against business more seriously.”

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