The All Party Parliamentary Group on Retail and Business Crime (APPG-RBC) was created just over a year ago to drive awareness of retailers’ daily struggle against ant-social behaviour and crime. The group was set up with support from the National Business Crime Forum and has attracted huge attention, with 31 MPs signing up to be part of the group.

In its inaugural meeting, Hove and Portslade MP Mike Weatherley was elected chairman of the group. Here he explains to C-Store what it has achieved in its first 12 months and how retailers should be working with local authorities to protect themselves.

What has the APPG-RBC covered in its first 12 months?

” Since the group was set up, we’ve had meetings and dialogue with both Baroness Browning and Lord Henley - current and former minister for crime prevention respectively - and their team, meetings with criminal justice minister Nick Herbert to put pressure on police authorities to pay riot compensation expeditiously, and parliamentary discussions with justice secretary Ken Clarke. Members have also participated in parliamentary debates, tabled debates, written questions to ministers and Prime Minister’s Questions - particularly in the aftermath of the riots.”

What’s the group’s main aim?

” The focus of the group is to raise the political profile - and the cost to the economy - of crimes committed against businesses, and this will continue as a constant aim. Clearly, there will be specific incidences that the group will have to respond to on an ad hoc basis as they occur - such as the riots - and specific policy that the group consults with ministers on, to feed in business views.”

What do you and the group hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

“Changing legislation takes years, so the group does not have an agenda that fundamentally changes year on year. In its first year, the group was about setting up a dialogue between businesses, parliamentarians and ministers on how legislation and regulations could be formed to most effectively tackle retail and business crime issues. This year, the group will build on its ministerial relationships to become a key legislative consultee. It will continue to table parliamentary debates and written questions on crime issues that have been brought to MPs through businesses in their constituencies, or from national representative organisations.”

Has there been much engagement with retailers since the group was formed?

“There has been a large degree of engagement from retailers. It was campaigning from retail groups associated with the National Business Crime Forum that led to the establishment of the group in the first place. Meetings are open to retailers, and retailer representatives do attend every meeting.”

Are there areas of crime in the retail sector that particularly concern you?

“There is an undeniable increase in shoplifting, robbery and assault, especially from small businesses where there is less in the way of sophisticated CCTV and security staff to deter criminals. We are hoping to get best practice advice from larger stores, to assist smaller shops in ‘designing out’ crime. We have also been extremely supportive of Facewatch, a fantastic scheme which allows retailers to report crime more efficiently and provides statistics which have never before been so accurate. It allows police forces to look at crimes across borders and different local authorities.

“There’s also a huge impact from metal theft. We need stricter regulation of the metal trade and strict sanctions on those caught trading in stolen metal.”

What should retailers be doing to protect themselves?

“Retailers should install CCTV, report all crimes and establish a rapport with their local police. Many police authorities will hold seminars for businesses on how to dissipate tension and handle unruly customers and if retailers aren’t getting the support they need they should speak or write to their MPs to raise awareness among parliamentarians.”

How could local authorities better help retailers?

“Local authorities should ensure that businesses aren’t deterred from reporting crime, as is all too often the case. When crimes are reported they should be handled expeditiously and appropriately by the police, and appropriate support given to victims of crime through the justice system, in particular to ensure appropriate and tough sentencing. If retailers do find this isn’t the case then they should speak to their MPs immediately.”

What impact will Police and Crime Commissioners have on retail crime?

“It is positive that communities will be able to hold someone responsible. However, there is a long-established sense that retailers simply don’t report crimes, so there is some impetus on business owners to make sure they take advantage of the extra line of communication. If they don’t shout about the issues that concern them it’s very hard for police authorities and crime commissioners to get a true picture of crime and the hotspots in order to tackle them.” •