Retailers plagued by rising levels of crime have welcomed the new Retail Crime Action Plan which outlines police responses to theft.

Published by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), Operation Pegasus has guidelines for crimes will be dealt with.

These include:

Attendance at the scene:

Police attendance will be prioritised in cases where violence has been used; where an offender has been detained by store security or staff; where evidence needs to be promptly secured.

Hot Spot Patrolling:

Police data and business engagement will help identify top locations to help develop a visible presence.

Organised Crime

A new Organised Retail Crime (ORC) capability will be formed within Opal, which is the National Intelligence Unit for Serious and Organised Acquisitive Crime. This team will be centrally governed but will be supporting Police Forces in identifying the Organised Crime Groups (OCG’s) operating in their area so they can be effectively targeted locally. Key activities of the Unit will be:

• The creation of a new dedicated intelligence team focusing on ORC, providing a unique interface for retailers to share intelligence with policing to develop into tangible activity, prevention and enforcement.

• Training provided to retailers on appropriate information and intelligence to share with policing.

• The development of a National Strategic Assessment on ORC utilising both industry, Police and 3rd party data. For the first time, this will give a detailed analysis of organised retail crime, the offenders, modus operandi and opportunities to tackle it.

• Utilisation of facial recognition software across public and private sectors to identify the individuals who pose the highest threat harm and risk.

• The identification of OCG’s who will be appropriately prioritised, mapped and allocated to local Policing for onward management and intelligence development.

• The development of a performance framework to track activity and outcomes of the Opal ORC team.

How retailers should report crimes when they occur

Launched following a meeting between Policing Minister Chris Philp, senior police officers and retail representatives, Pegasus is the first national partnership of its kind, and is backed by the Home Office, John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots, Primark, who have collectively pledged to provide over £600,000 to support the initiative.

Crime and Policing Minister, Chris Philp said he wants a “zero tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting”.

“It is a blight on our highstreets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change,” he said. “While it is encouraging to see a 29% increase in charges for shoplifting in the past year, the rise in offending is unacceptable and there is much more to do to stop it happening in the first place.

“That’s why we’re taking action and bringing together government, policing and business to commit to smarter, more joined up working when it comes to retail crime, which will help to drive down criminal behaviour and rebuild public confidence in the police response when it does occur.”

Industry welcome

The Action Plan has been welcomed by the retail sector.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “The publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan sets a clear marker that the torrent of thefts and other offences committed against businesses will be taken seriously by police forces and the government and will be strongly welcomed by both large and small retailers. Convenience retailers are facing unprecedented levels of theft against their businesses at the hands of prolific offenders who are targeting stores repeatedly without fear of reproach. These incidents take a huge toll on retailers and their colleagues, so it’s crucial that every incident reported to the police gets investigated and is something that we have been calling for in conversations with ministers and police representatives.

“Using artificial intelligence to identify prolific offenders can be an effective way of drastically reducing the amount of police time it takes to make links between crimes committed against different businesses locally, and we hope that this will encourage more retailers to submit CCTV evidence of theft when it occurs to help make the link between crimes that have previously been seen as separate offences. Whether its artificial intelligence or local intelligence that leads to criminals being identified, the real challenge still remains apprehending these people and putting in place effective interventions to break the cycle of reoffending.”

The National President of the Federation of Independent Retailers, Muntazir Dipoti, added: “The Retail Crime Action Plan sets a clear precedent that the police are going to take any criminal action against businesses more seriously. Small businesses have a lot to look forward to with this announcement.

“Retail crime is not a victimless crime, and we have campaigned for years for the police to take tougher action. We are pleased to hear that this is now going to happen.”