shoplifting epidemic 2023

Shoplifting – A crime that correlates to crisis?

According to Retail Times, post-lockdown crimewaves were recorded with a significant resumption in shoplifting: “As stores reopened in June 2020, shoplifting incidents began to rise, culminating in the highest growth in July 2020, where a 27% increase was noted.”
Both TM-Eye and Anekanta identify factors that would suggest a rise in shoplifting as a trend sparked by a Cost-of-Living Crisis.
Anekanta: “It is not unreasonable to assume that many other Government predictions and ONS statistics will also be reversed when more recent data is applied. Retail crime, according to the ONS is on a downward trend – or is it? It is inevitable that the retail sector would feel the heat of the cost-of-living crisis. The interacting factors are complex. The price of energy is one of these, and when Eon reported that 40% of its customers may experience energy poverty by the end of the 2022; this reverses the downward trend advised by the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020.
“Over time, retailers have designed in security and technology to their operational processes. However, if the prosecution rate remains low (6%) and is predicted to reduce further, the lack of consequences, in effect, legalises the crime. This brings no justice for the victims who are not just the Corporates.”
TM-Eye adds: “It is highly unlikely anyone stealing food to eat would ever see a police officer, let alone be arrested and prosecuted. The police do not usually arrest, prosecute or even record such offences. That has been the case for many years. It is not for the Police to act as Judge and Jury, that is the job of a Court. The job of the police is to uphold the law, gather evidence and then present that evidence to a Court. A Court can then decide on guilt or innocence and a suitable outcome or sentence. A court can enforce an Order to help or assist an offender to rehabilitate.
“This is a frightening state of affairs. It affects us all. It will destroy the high streets and put prices up even further.”
BRC (British Retail Consortium) the trade association for UK retailers, reports to us: “Retailers are open to exploring other measures to prevent retail crime, and will increasingly be looking into technological solutions they can adopt. Retailers spend huge sums on crime prevention, and our last crime survey showed they spent £1.2 billion in 2019/20. They hire security personnel, install CCTV systems and many have rolled out body-worn cameras for staff.” Research shows that theft from stores with self-checkout machines is up to 52% higher than those with traditional checkouts”

As targets for crime, however, the retail corporates should be reminded that their annual losses (over £5 billion) due to ‘shrinkage’ are unsurprisingly attributable to the development of ‘smart’ self-scanning, checkout-free systems. Are these significantly different to the wayside ‘honesty box’ where produce is offered for sale on an unattended stall?
The harsh reality is disclosed by the latest automation research that concludes the technology is designed to eliminate jobs, and save money. Yet, research shows that theft from stores with self-checkout machines is up to 52% higher than those with traditional checkouts. Unlike a staffed checkout, the downside of this self-service principle is obviously the ease with which a customer can skip some items without scanning the barcode, or switch barcode stickers of high value items for those of lower value.
The growth of recidivist retail theft on an industrial scale may be measured by the array of deterrent techniques now deployed. Anekanta comments: “The process of evidence gathering using video and AI analytics could be systemised in a way which automates the PCN process (Penalty Charge Notices), freeing up Police time from low value offences, to prosecute high-value theft (above £200). Also, to gather vital evidence to stop criminals who have been successful in industrialising their techniques.

If you would like to discuss and review your current retail security arrangements, please contact us.

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