Insufficient security and poor relationships between store owners and the police could be behind an alarming rise in crime against c-stores last year.
In its largest crime survey to date, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found store robberies increased by 30% in 2009, with the amount of cash stolen in incidents rising 45% compared with the previous year. Incidents of burglaries also rose, up 19% over the past 12 months, with the average value of goods stolen jumping 96% from £366.47 to £708.54.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said the figures indicated a worrying trend. "The fact that not only are robberies and burglaries both up, but the average amount stolen has also increased, indicates that thieves are targeting convenience stores as they see them as a soft option. Retailers may not have proper procedures in place for cash and high-value items," he said.
"Having security equipment is great, but if retailers are not securing cash in their stores or protecting items such as cigarettes and alcohol then they will continue to be under threat from robbery and burglaries."
Concerns over the relationship between police and businesses were addressed at the recent ACS Crime Forum in Manchester. Detective Inspector Michael Montford of Greater Manchester Police said that if retailers were concerned about the level of business crime in their area, they should contact their local Neighbourhood Policing Team now rather than wait for crime to affect them.
Lowman added that retailers would find it difficult to protect themselves if they didn't work with other retailers and the local police force. "It's as simple as calling your local police station and explaining who you are," he said. "Unless you are engaging with the police in the area, it will be tough to keep crime out of your store."
The police will make themselves available, but it's important that you get in touch with them as well. As soon as we moved into our store we contacted our local crime prevention officer to assess security. The relationship we built up with our local force was invaluable, especially after we were broken into."
Cherilyn Stores, West Chiltington, West Sussex
We have community officers in twice a week, but kids just laugh at them. We need more real officers with clout to be seen. Before Christmas, we dialled 999 for an incident and it took them 25 minutes to respond. When we complained it was just shrugged off."
Arkwrights, Swindon, Wiltshire