Calls to prioritise retail crime
In an open letter addressed to all PCCs across England and Wales, the British Retail Consortium expressed their concern for rising reports of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour partly linked to shoplifting.
The letter references the new amendment made to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which sees stronger sentences for those found guilty of violence and abuse against retail workers. Signed by 104 senior retail leaders, they ask PCCs to support the amendment by ensuring the power the new amendment provides is ‘properly and widely used’.
On behalf of people working in retail, the letter asks for PCCs to commit to making retail crime a priority in their local policing plan, work with businesses to investigate ways to make reporting simpler and push their local forces to investigate all reports of violence and abuse against retail workers. It also asks that PCCs monitor how often the new sentencing guidelines are used in their local areas and what effect it has on bringing down violence and abuse against retail workers.
In response to the letter, APCC Lead for Business and Retail Crime, Katy Bourne (Sussex PCC), said:
“I would like to reassure all retail workers that their concerns are taken very seriously. Across England and Wales, retail crime has been identified by the overwhelming majority of PCCs as a key priority locally, with an action plan in place to tackle the rise in reported crimes.
“Shoplifting and shrinkage is not the acceptable price of working in retail and should not have to be tolerated. Similarly, being subject to foul language, threats or abuse should not be normalised because we know the devastating impact this can have on staff, their livelihoods and the supply chain.
“One of the key problems when it comes to retail crime is that only a small percentage of these crimes are currently being reported to the police. Efforts must be made to understand the full extent of the problem so that we can effectively support businesses and ensure that police forces are responding and prioritising accordingly.
“To counter this issue in Sussex, we have introduced a ‘One Touch Reporting’ system, working with the Co-op and National Business Crime Solution. This pilot scheme has significantly reduced the reporting time for crimes in retail and improved the confidence of participating stores and their staff. Reporting levels in those participating stores have increased by as much as 300%.
“I have also established the Safer Sussex Business Partnership made up of businesses from the local area who, working with our specialist Business Crime Team of nine investigators, help to identify challenges and crime patterns, develop ways to share intelligence and combat prolific offending. In addition, we have developed three programmes to work with first-time and serial offenders in order to reduce reoffending and support victims of business crime.
“I am delighted that, through our APCC portfolio work, many PCCs across England and Wales are now establishing similar partnerships and initiatives.
“Violence and abuse of retail workers should never be tolerated and I personally advocated for this offence/aggravating factor to be included in the Police, Crime and Sentencing and Courts Act. PCCs will be monitoring the use of this aggravating factor in the months to come to understand whether it is being utilised effectively.
“My PCC colleagues and I are committed to working closely with our local business communities to understand the scale of the problem when it comes to retail crime. We will continue to encourage the reporting of all incidents of violence and abuse against retail workers to the police - this way we can continue to hold forces to account for their response and investigation of these crimes.”