Current penalties for shoplifting do not fit the crime and warrant an urgent review, small store retailers have claimed.
The calls follow celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson’s lambasting in the national press after he was caught stealing cheese from a Tesco store.
Worrall Thompson admitted to stealing on five previous occasions, joining the long list of offenders who stole an estimated £2.15bn-worth of goods from UK stores in 2011.
According to the Centre for Retail Research, which publishes the Global Retail Theft Barometer, 2011 saw a 6% increase in shop theft compared with the previous year. Government figures from last year also reveal that 78% of those convicted for shoplifting re-offended within 12 months, highlighting the need for harsher penalties to deter criminals.
James Brundle of Spar Walthamstow, East London, aired his frustrated with shoplifters. “They seem to always get let off,” he said. “We call the police every time but it feels like we’re fighting a lost cause as we know the police will just let them get away with a caution.”
Nigel Dowdney of Earlham Shopper in Norwich said shoplifting wasn’t just an opportunistic crime. “We have people looking to steal to order,” he said. “They know we have CCTV and will call the police, but they don’t care. The police do what they can, but current penalties aren’t sufficient to deter those willing to take the risk.”
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the penalties currently available to the authorities were not being properly enforced. “There is an extensive suite of measures that exist to deal with shop theft, from out-of-court penalties to full custodial sentences,” he said. “But often courts don’t use all the powers available to them.”
Effective crime reporting could make a key difference, he added. “Victim Impact Statements can be really effective in making sure that the effect of theft on retailers is properly taken into account,” he said.
“The police and authorities could be doing more. The sentences handed out to criminals need to be tougher to act as a deterrent.”
Raj Aggarwal, Londis Wigston, Leicester
“Our local police force do take it more seriously than before, but retailers need to have crime prevention measures such as CCTV in order to make a difference.”
Dave Newman, Westhill Stores, Hastings, East Sussex
“It’s almost not worth getting the police involved for shoplifting as the thieves know they’ll get away with a slap on the wrist.”
Fal Patel, Londis Clapham, London
“Far too often shoplifters are just let away with a caution. The penalties need to be harder on shoplifters.”
Ranjan Limbachia Western Newsagents, Hove, East Sussex