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February 12, 2024


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Addressing the surge in shoplifting: Strategies for safeguarding retailers in challenging times

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paints a concerning picture of shoplifting offences across England and Wales, with rates reaching their highest levels in two decades.

Deane Sales, Group Sales Director at Amthal, delves into the very latest figures and examines how the industry can unite to support retailers during these challenging economic times, prioritising the security of their premises, customers, staff and assets.

Crime statistics

SupermarketRetailCrime-CristianoBabini-AlamyStock-22According to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, there were over 402,000 recorded offences by Police in the year to September 2023, a significant increase from the previous 12 months’ 304,459 incidents.

In October 2023, reports came in of shoplifting hitting another record high of 1,000 offences a day . A significant proportion of this is down to the value of internal theft by employees working in distribution centres and stores.

It is the first time since current records began in 2002 that the number recorded by police has risen above 400,000. The previous peak of 382,643 was recorded in the year to March 2018. This is without consideration of the crimes that have not been reported due to fears of no action being taken.

It is perhaps no wonder that the UK has been described by leading high-street stalwarts, including Dame Sharon White of John Lewis, as being in the grip of a shoplifting epidemic.

Government response

While it’s commonly assumed the surge in shoplifting is a direct result of the cost-of-living crisis, evidence suggests otherwise. Approximately two-thirds of individuals stealing from local shops are repeat offenders, some with ties to organised crime.

Action is being taken to combat the rise. In October last year, the government launched an “action plan to tackle shoplifting” after increased pressure from businesses.

Known as Project Pegasus, this is a business and policing partnership that is intended to “radically improve the way retailers can share intelligence with policing, to better understand the tactics used by organised retail crime gangs and identify more offenders.” This includes the development of a new information-sharing platform and training for retailers.

Downing Street also said that ministers were looking at further ways to implement these plans. A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We’d always want to do more to combat shoplifting.”

“I think there is work that has been done, particularly with private companies, about how we can go further to tackle this issue.”

Further reading: Retailers and policing brought together as UK Government launches Retail Crime Action Plan to tackle shoplifting epidemic

Need for security industry action


Image credit: Shutterstock

Proactive measures by the security industry are imperative to support the retail industry. Considering the scale of the challenge, retail companies must take independent steps to ensure the safety of their staff, and customers, and minimise inventory loss.

These measures not only aim to mitigate the impact of theft but also strive to stop it from happening in the first place and create safer environments in-store and throughout the supply chain.

Investing in robust security systems will act as visual and physical deterrents. When planned, designed and installed effectively, visual surveillance cameras, access control systems, biometrics and intruder alarms serve against potential thieves, safeguarding premises and assets.

These must be maintained to ensure optimal operational efficiency and additionally, embrace wireless, AI and cloud-based remote monitoring services to enable real-time responses, enhancing overall security capabilities.

Collaboration with security specialists is essential for capturing and managing data in a compliant manner. These technologies bolster security and provide valuable evidence for law enforcement agencies, aiding in investigations and prosecutions.

Creating a culture of awareness among employees is equally important. Providing comprehensive training on recognising suspicious behaviour, establishing clear security protocols, and promoting open communication channels empowers staff to respond effectively to potential threats, especially in the face of increasing abuse and physical attacks.

As we navigate the complexities of the modern retail landscape, it’s critical to continue prioritising security measures that not only deter theft but also create safe and welcoming environments for customers and employees alike. It is our duty of care and we have a responsibility to support the retail sector.

Further reading: Tackling the retail crime epidemic with technology – Are body-worn cameras the answer?

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