Shoplifting crackdown plea

Shoplifting is down, according to a retailer survey – thanks in part to a huge investment in crime-busting measures from shop owners. But there is concern that too many shoplifters are reoffending and not paying fixed penalties.

The British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2010 shows an 11% reduction in the number of offences per 100 outlets, compared with the previous year. The total value of goods stolen was still up.

Retailers said they spent more than £210 million on protecting staff, stock and premises – an annual rise of 10%. The BRC said the government, police and courts need to show similar commitment by dealing firmly with shoplifters.

Director general Stephen Robertson said: “Retailers dug deeper into their own pockets and spent even more on crime prevention measures. It’s encouraging to see this having a positive impact on the number of shoplifting offences but the cost to retailers still went up.” Government ministers have admitted that 78% of people convicted for shoplifting commit similar offences within a year. Justice minister Crispin Blunt admitted this was “unacceptable” but said government plans to tackle drug abuse should impact on the number of shoplifting offences.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Shop theft is a serious crime that harms retailers’ livelihoods and has knock-on effects for consumers. The rate of re-?offending is deeply concerning and retailers want to see action.

“We agree about the importance of tackling substance abusers. We also believe that more can be done through community payback to deter offenders and compensate victims. There is, however, a point where the only effective sanction is prison.”?There are currently 12,500 people serving terms of under six months for such offences. Blunt told the Commons: “In 2008, the rate of reconviction within one year for adults convicted of offences related to shoplifting was 78.3%. That is unacceptably high.”?Blunt said drug addiction was at the root of most shoplifting, and a payment-by-results scheme to curb drug abuse should mean the number of shoplifting convictions “will begin to decrease significantly”.