The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), an influential think tank, has urged the government to introduce tough two-year sentences for prolific shoplifters in order to cut crime and rehabilitate drug-addicted offenders.

The call follows the release of the CSJ’s new ‘Desperate for a Fix’ report, released today (June 6), which suggests rising shop theft is being driven by criminals addicted to narcotics and psychoactive substances such as spice.

The report found that as many as 70% of shop thefts are committed by drug addicts. The CSJ says 10,000 of the most prolific drug-addicted offenders should be targeted with a tough two-year sentence involving a year of drug-free secure accommodation and a year of therapeutic drug treatment to prevent repeat re-offending.

The CSJ also recommended that Police and Crime Commissioners should work with businesses and local partners to identify and target prolific drug-addicted offenders.

CSJ chief executive Andy Cook said: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime. Last year £6.3bn’s worth of goods were stolen, often from small businesses.

“Small businesses are our wealth creators and our job providers. The government must uphold the rule of law protecting property owners. It’s clear that current efforts to shop theft have failed to prevent further offending by the most prolific thieves.”

Incidents of shoplifting have risen over the past five years. Some 385,000 cases were reported last year, with many offences going unreported. The actual figure is thought to be as high as 38 million, according to the CSJ.

CSJ head of criminal justice Rory Geoghegan added: “By focusing on detecting shop thefts committed by prolific drug-addicted offenders, it is possible to engage more serious offenders and thereby tackle both shop theft and other offences, such as burglary, robbery, and car crime.”

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the CSJ’s recommendations. 

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Theft is an all too common occurrence in the convenience sector causing significant harm to businesses and the people running and working in these stores. This report shows just how serious a problem shop theft is, and we welcome the recommendations aimed at making retail crime more of a priority.

“We are actively promoting the report’s call for better working between retailers and Police and Crime Commissioners by calling on all Police and Crime Commissioners to sign up to a series of pledges to take shop theft seriously and deal more effectively with repeat offenders.”

The full ‘Desperate for a Fix’ report is available on the Centre for Social Justice website.