Police officers are not turning up to deal with violent attacks on shop staff because the criminal has already fled, a coalition of businesses and workers has said as it calls for a commitment to tackling unprecedented levels of theft.
The group has written to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales calling on forces to make it easier to pass on evidence and boost efforts to find repeat and violent offenders.
Its letter comes amid reports of record levels of shoplifting and even organised looting.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “The unprecedented levels of shop theft being faced by retailers cannot be allowed to continue.
“We have set out a three-pronged approach for police forces across the UK to adopt and make it clear that they are committed to tackling the problem.
“Theft and abuse are a blight on communities, with addicts and criminal gangs repeatedly targeting hardworking retailers and their colleagues.
“These are not victimless crimes, and they must be investigated to bring the most prolific offenders to justice.”
The coalition is made up of business groups the ACS, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the British Independent Retail Association, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Federation of Independent Retailers and shopworkers’ union Usdaw.
Its letter says: “Rather than seeing this as high volume, low-value crime, we can recognise the opportunity it gives us to identify prolific offenders who blight communities by committing these and other crimes.
“You should expect retailers to provide good quality evidence on offenders, and they should expect this to be analysed, investigated and followed up with meaningful interventions for those individuals.
“We can break the cycle of reoffending if we take this opportunity to commit to this approach.”
It calls for police action in three areas:
To make it easier for retailers to report crime and submit evidence. Currently, systems are unclear and time-consuming, the group said.
To identify prolific offenders behind most of the thefts and anti-social behaviour – it singles out Nottinghamshire and Sussex police forces for praise for their systems that focus on collecting data on the worst criminals.
To prioritise gathering evidence related to violent attacks.
The letter says: “We often see scenarios where violence against shopworkers is not responded to by the police because incidents do not meet forces’ threat, harm and risk criteria as offenders have left the premises after committing an offence.
“In the vast majority, if not all, of retail businesses there will be CCTV footage available to support police lines of inquiry into violent incidents.
“Therefore, we would like to see the proactive collection of evidence prioritised by police forces.”
The BRC has estimated that theft is costing retailers nearly £1 billion per year, while the ACS says 90% of workers have experienced verbal abuse in that period.
Both Home Secretary Suella Braverman and policing minister Chris Philp have already called on police to be tougher on shoplifting.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs’ Council have been approached for comment.