Police will create ‘hostile environment’ for shoplifters to crack down on epidemic of retail theft with officers attending ‘a lot more incidents’, ministers vow
- Earlier this month retailers complained they struggled to get a police response
Police will create a ‘hostile environment’ for shoplifters in a bid to crack down on an epidemic of retail theft, ministers vowed today.
One senior officer urged members of the public to tip-off police if they are offered suspiciously cheap goods which may have been stolen.
Under a new action plan, officers will turn up to all shoplifting incidents involving violence against shopworkers, or where security guards have detained an offender.
They will also attend shops where they need to gather evidence such as DNA.
Earlier this month retailers complained they struggled to get a police response even in violent cases.
Police will create a ‘hostile environment’ for shoplifters in a bid to crack down on an epidemic of retail theft, ministers vowed today
As reported by the Mail earlier this month, stores will also be encouraged to email CCTV images to police so they can be run through advanced facial recognition software – comparing the offender with millions of images held on police databases.
Policing minister Chris Philp said: ‘The plan makes it astronomically, exponentially more likely that shoplifters will get caught.
‘Capturing all of the CCTV images – not some of them, all of them – and then running through the facial recognition database makes it dramatically more likely that people are going to get picked up and prosecuted.
‘Police will be attending a lot more incidents.
‘All of those things collectively will create a hostile environment for shoplifters.
‘It’s going to be a step change in the kind of response that retailers and the public see.’
Amanda Blakeman, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman on acquisitive crime, urged the public to ‘think carefully’ before purchasing items at too-good-to-be-true prices.
‘If anyone gets offered something very, very cheaply we would like to hear from them,’ she said.
Under a new action plan, officers will turn up to all shoplifting incidents involving violence against shopworkers, or where security guards have detained an offender
‘There’s all sorts of anonymous lines for being able to contact us – Crimestoppers being one of them.’ Ms Blakeman, the North Wales Chief Constable, added: ‘My plea to the community would be if you are buying something that seems too good to be true, it is, and it’s probably come at the loss of the retail community.
‘So think really carefully about where you’re buying things from and, clearly, if it’s a very cheap product that obviously wouldn’t be for resale at that price, think really carefully about it and let us know.’
In addition, the ‘Retail Crime Action Plan’ will also see the creation of a specialist police intelligence team to zero in on organised crime gangs which fuel many shoplifting incidents.
Police are also carrying out work to make it harder for shoplifters to sell stolen items.
The plan’s likelihood of success remain unclear, however, in the wake of the Government’s announcement just days ago seeking to cut the number of short prison sentences handed out to lower-level offenders.
Policing minister Chris Philp said: ‘The plan makes it astronomically, exponentially more likely that shoplifters will get caught’
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said he will pass new laws asking judges and magistrates not to impose unnecessary jail terms of less than 12 months – potentially encompassing thousands of shoplifters caught each year.
It is understood there will be exemptions allowing prolific shoplifters to still be imprisoned.
Last week official crime data showed shoplifting had surged by 25 per cent in a year, in the latest shocking indicator of lawlessness in ‘Wild West Britain’.
READ MORE: Police use facial recognition technology to catch prolific shoplifters with state-of-the-art system which can identify potential suspects in just 60 seconds
There were 365,164 incidents of shoplifting logged by police in England and Wales – 1,000 a day and the highest level since 2019, the Office for National Statistics said.
However, the proportion of shoplifting incidents which led to a suspect being taken to court is in decline – just 12.2 per cent in the latest quarter compared with almost 19 per cent in the year to March 2020.
Today’s plan will seek to reverse the trend, and will also see forces introduce hotspot patrols in badly affected areas.
The programme is backed by the Home Office and retailers including John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots and Primark, who will provide more than £840,000 in start-up costs.
Paul Gerrard, spokesman for the Co-op, said: ‘We are hopeful that this will mark the point at which the police will provide the support to protect shopworkers and shops so they can help the communities they serve thrive.’
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