Frustrated retailers demand a tougher stance on crime

Ensuring that the punishment fits the crime will remain a key issue for retailers in 2008 in a climate where overcrowded prisons mean custodial sentences are the very last resort.
Shoplifting levels are at a 10-year high and violence in stores is on the up again, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)'s annual crime survey. These are worrying trends given the fact that many retailers have spent thousands of pounds installing state-of-the-art security equipment to guard against retail crime.
A common complaint from retailers is that they have lost faith in their local police force, with many claiming it can take days for an officer to respond to what is often labelled 'petty' theft.
However, the next 12 months could - if trade associations including the Association of Convenience Stores have their way - lead to a number of changes in the way business crime is dealt with.
With recent figures released by the Ministry of Justice showing that less than half of Fixed Penalty Notices are paid by offenders, ACS is calling for an urgent review of the current on-the-spot fines and an investigation into whether the system actually works.
It's also continuing to put pressure on the government to ensure persistent shoplifters face a jail term.
Elsewhere, the British Retail Consortium believes the fruits of its labour are starting to show. The National Retail Crime Steering Group met for the first time in July 2007 - a breakthrough after the BRC spent many years campaigning for its creation.
The Home Office-led group comprises senior retail representatives as well as members of the Association of Chief Police Officers, National Policing Improvement Agency and the Ministry of Justice.
Many retailers are getting one step ahead of the criminals by forming local links with fellow businesses and business crime initiatives. Why not use the new year to take a fresh look at your business to ensure you're not seen as a soft target?

Vernon Coaker, under secretary of state for crime reduction



"I can assure C-Store readers that the government takes crime against business very seriously. We recognise the cost and disruption that it causes as well as the knock-on effects for communities.
"We recognise the concerns that retailers have and we are working closely with them to tackle the problem. We have established a National Retail Crime Steering Group to understand the problem and have also commissioned a 'designing out crime' audit tool that stores can use to cut down the risk of crime. This will be available for general use this year.
"The abuse of shopworkers should never be accepted as an occupational hazard. We are committed to ensuring that every community has a neighbourhood policing team by April 2008. These teams are uniquely able to engage with local people and involve them in agreeing local policing priorities.
"I'm also keen to see a shift towards the local delivery of local priorities in response to local need. This can only be achieved in partnership with community safety service providers and communities themselves, including local businesses."

Sunder Sandher, Londis, Leamington Spa, warwickshire



"The laws need to be much tougher. The police and Crown Prosecution Service are often tied down by guidelines. In the year to come, we need the government
to take a much harder line on retail crime. Punishments such as £80 on-the-spot fines for shoplifting are a joke, really.
"Theft is the main nightmare facing most retailers. Retailers can help themselves to an extent by installing modern CCTV, but it has to be followed up by the police. It's also important to train staff well and I've installed systems such as magnetic locks on the doors. My policy is to ban anyone I catch stealing.
"I also try to make sure there are at least two members of staff on at a time."