The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has announced that its intelligence unit for serious and organised acquisitive crime (SOAC), Opal, has formed a new team that will soon start gathering, scoping and analysing information about organised retail crime groups referred from several different sources.

The team, funded by the Pegasus partnership launched in 2023 by PCC Katy Bourne, is rolling out training to retailers and police forces and aims to support them in understanding Opal’s role and how to refer intelligence which can then be analysed and explored on a national scale.

Taking place through April, the virtual sessions will explain the thresholds and requirements for referrals, demonstrating how the team will work with forces, retailers, businesses and organisations to gather information. 

The training will be “instrumental in identifying and tackling the organised crime groups responsible for a large proportion of retail crime,” said the NPCC.

Stephanie Coombes head of intelligence at Opal said: “Opal has been carrying out this role for other crime types for a number of years and we have seen significant successes from having a national overview of what’s happening in the organised crime world.

“You may have for example, an organised crime group targeting a chain of convenience stores in one region who are also using the same tactics in several different areas. Without a national team to bring together that information, we could have several police forces each looking into the same group so Opal’s role is to centralise that intelligence, build a strong evidence package and then work with the relevant force/s to deal with these high harm offenders.

“We know that many retailers have intelligence built up through their own systems and processes and the training sessions aim to demonstrate how they can work with us to share that information so action can be taken”

Coombes emphasised that the services provided by Opal do not serve as a substitute for reporting incidents to local police forces. Instead, it serves as a means to share information and intelligence packages. She explained that one of the key requirements for making a referral is to have a crime number for the related incident/s.

“We want to make it clear and straightforward for retailers, businesses, organisations and police forces to share information with us and the training sessions are an important element in achieving this,” Coombes said.

Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman is the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Acquisitive Crime commented: “Partnership working is essential in tackling many different crime types, a fact emphasised by the Retail Crime Action Plan which we launched last year and which is showing positive results through greater collaboration between forces and retailers.

“Opal has provided a vital service to police forces for a number of years and will significantly boost the response to retail crime, showing these organised crime groups that there is quite simply nowhere to hide.”

The training is open to all retailers, businesses and organisations representing retailers. The virtual sessions can be booked here and take place:

  • Wednesday 10 April: 10am-11am and 2pm – 3pm
  • Thursday 11 April: 10am – 11am and 2pm – 3pm
  • Monday 15 April: 9am – 10am and 1pm - 2pm
  • Tuesday 16 April: 9am – 10am and 1pm – 2pm