The Association of Convenience Stores came to Parliament last week to again highlight the issue of shop theft and violence against staff. Retail crime is a costly business, costing stores around £125 million a year which invariably means the cost being passed on to shoppers. That cost is estimated to be 6p per transaction, bad news at any time, but particularly during the cost of living crisis. Shop owners spend an average of £4,500 a year on security yet shop crime has increased five fold in the last decade. Linked to that is regular verbal abuse of staff and a reported 41K incidents of violence often involving a knife.
The ACS is offering a plan to tackle this increasing problem including a Most Wanted list which would mean prolific offenders being barred from retail areas. They also call for incentives for crime prevention measures. Perversely if a shop owners installs more security they end up paying higher business rates.
It is also clear that successful schemes to combat shop crime happen where the police, local authorities and retailers work together and where they are prepared to use all the powers at their disposal. Sadly retailers report high levels of dissatisfaction with the time it takes for the police to respond, a reluctance to investigate and the lack of appropriate sanctions. This reflects the fact that there are too few police officers which leads to a lack of police presence in some areas. I will be meeting our hard pressed cops soon to see what more can be done to address this.