Official figures revealing a decline in shoplifting for the first time in over five years have been dismissed as “just wrong”, amid concerns that retailers are “not reporting crimes in frustration”.
A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that in the 12-month period to September 2018, shoplifting offences recorded by police decreased 1% to 378,656 - the first decline since the year ending March 2013 - while recorded burglary offences decreased 1% to 427,435.
The overall number of theft offences has fallen by 69% since the year ending December 1995, according to the ONS.
But Raj Chandegra, owner of five Londis stores in London, has seen an increase in shoplifting numbers throughout his stores, attributing the rise to “clued-up criminals”.
“The statistics are just wrong. At all my stores I have issues. We’ve got thieves coming in, picking up stuff and walking out saying ‘what are you going to do about it?’ It is just because no incidents are reported anymore,” he said.
“A combination of lighter sentencing and no attendance from police has caused it to get worse. If a stolen item is under a certain amount, I will not report it and won’t even try talk to the police. We used to get police down for large theft, alcohol and cigarettes and so on, but if it’s 15 to 20 quid’s worth, the police stay away.
“Those guys up in Parliament are living in cuckoo land, in their own little cloud. They have no idea what day-to-day life is like or what running a business is like. If anything, I would say the situation has got worse because thieves now know about the lack of response.”
ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said shop theft remained a “huge problem” and urged retailers to report incidents of shoplifting.
“The official statistics may show a slight decrease in the overall number of shop thefts being recorded by the police, but we know in our sector shop theft remains a huge problem for retailers. We are concerned that a fall in the number of recorded incidents could be as a result of retailers not reporting crimes in frustration at the lack of response from police, not necessarily as a result of the number of offences falling,” he said.
“We urge retailers to report all incidents of shop theft when they occur. Shop theft is a crime, and must be taken seriously by forces because theft often leads to abuse and aggressive behaviour against retailers and their staff who are just doing their job and enforcing the law.”
Figures from ACS’ Voice of Local Shops survey revealed almost a fifth (17%) of convenience retailers had seen an increase in shop theft over the last year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government recognises the impact that all forms of crime, including shoplifting, has on retailers. We encourage retailers to report these crimes to the police so that they can be investigated.
“We work closely with the retail sector and law enforcement to tackle all forms of retail crime through the National Retail Crime Steering Group, which is co-chaired by the minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, and the British Retail Consortium.”