The worrying trend of retail crime
So, is there a link between tighter household finances and increased shop theft. The answer appears to be: yes, but not in the way people immediately think. Let’s start with some quantitative data. Below is our shop theft index, which nets off the number of retailers saying theft in their stores is increasing and those who say it is decreasing.
More stores are experiencing theft and the timing of this rise maps to the growing cost of living crisis. What’s more, the qualitative evidence backs this up: retailers tell us they are seeing more theft in their stores right now.
This is the point where many commentators make a logical leap that, dare I say, reveals something about them. The argument goes: people are struggling to make ends meet, so they’re stealing more to feed themselves. That’s not what we hear from members, nor does is tally with my own experience of how people behave. For most people, no matter how bad things get, they wouldn’t steal from another person or business.
So why the rise in our shop theft index? Retailers tell us that the two main factors driving shop theft are still the same, but they’re becoming more common and more serious. Firstly, the cycle of addiction that people are battling with is responsible for most theft no matter how well or badly the economy is doing. The difference now is that desperate people with addiction problems have to find more money to live and eat, and more money for their drugs and alcohol. The second biggest motivation for theft is by those that are part of organised groups. These are offenders who are stealing to sell on, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable people themselves.
For both groups, higher value goods are being targeted, they’re more likely to try to snatch cash from tills, are becoming more brazen in taking cases of products off shelves and walking out, or even grabbing high value goods from gantries or behind the counter. This combination of desperation and brazen confidence they feel makes it more likely that incidents will escalate into violence if they’re challenged by a shop colleague.
It’s a really dangerous situation that I’m concerned we’ll see more of as theft by this group of people rises. It also highlights the need to examine every security process to protect people, products and cash.
I stand by my earlier view that it’s the same people stealing from shops now as last year, but the cost of living crisis is causing them to steal more.
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