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  • Samantha Steadman

"United Front: How The Government, Police, and Retailers Are Addressing The Surge In Retail Crime"

Retail crime is becoming a major concern for businesses, shoppers, and communities alike. Figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, published on 25th April 2024[1], show shoplifting offences are their highest since current police recording practices began, increasing by a huge 37% compared with year ending December 2023.

In this blog, we will be looking at the strategies and legislation developments that are currently underway in order to combat this concerning rise in retail crime to protect stores and ensure a safe shopping experience for all.

Police Crime Commissioner Elections[2]

During and following the recent Police Crime Commissioner campaigns and elections in early May, the British Retail Consortium called for tougher police action on retail crime, urging the elected candidates to commit to stronger stances on retail crime following reports of a surge of violence and abuse against retail staff last year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said, “Inadequate police action has given criminals free rein to steal goods and assault retail colleagues. Newly elected PCCs have a fantastic opportunity to get tough on retail crime through the new standalone offence, and I hope the next wave of PCCs deliver the protections that those working in retail and our communities up and down the country deserve.”

The stance that more needs to be done from a legislative perspective in England is universal – police failed to attend 79% of incidents last year where a criminal had been detained in England and only 10% of reported incidents result in arrest in contrast to 80% in Scotland.[3] The BRC have also encouraged the newly elected commissioners to make retail crime a priority by allocating the necessary resources for tackling incidents and working with other policing stakeholders to ensure the standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker is enforced and data on this use is tracked.

Co Op – AI Self Checkouts[4]

Food Managing Director at Co-Op, Matt Hood reports retail crime cost the business £70m last year with incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour increasing by 44% and an average of 1000 incidents a day. He commented on the issues, saying, “The real costs is the physical and mental wellbeing of our follow colleagues as much as the goods that disappear from our shelves. The reality is every day four of my colleagues will be attacked and a further 116 colleagues will be seriously abused.”

Although, Hood highlights retail crime is often committed by repeat offenders, he also detailed the methods The Co-Op was using in order to combat “middle-class” theft at self-checkouts, a growing trend that M&S chair Archie Norman has previously highlighted. The convenience of the self-checkout was deemed too practical by Hood to consider removing them from stores completely, the mutual is now linking AI to CCVTV cameras in order to track what items are put into bags at self-checkouts.

JD Sports – Tagging Sprays[5]

Sportswear retailer, JD Sports are introducing tagging sprays across stores nationwide. The partnership with forensic security company SelectaDNA will roll out a marking system which will work by leaving synthetic DNA and a UV marker on property and criminals which can then be used to link the assets to their rightful owners and criminals to crime scenes. JD Sports said this measure should help to combat the rise of “steaming” within stores, where large gangs run into targeted locations, threaten the staff present and make a getaway with armfuls of stock.

Ian Williams, JD Sports Head of Retail Profit and Asset Protection UK & Ireland commented on the scheme, “With the significant increase in retail crime across the UK, we required a solution to firstly act as a deterrent but also support the likelihood of positive arrests in what remains a challenging climate. Criminals continue to evolve with every enhancement made in the security industry, however forensic marking takes things to another level which even the most seasoned criminal can’t evade. We continually look for new and innovative ways in which to support our colleagues and disrupt criminals and SelectaDNA offered something different in the fight against retail crime which is supported by most police forces nationwide.”

BP – Body Cams & New Technologies[6]

BP have announced their continued investment in the security of their team members by rolling out the Auror retail crime intelligence platform across 300 stores over the next few months and implementing the use of Reveal body worn cameras at stores experiencing higher levels of abuse and crime.

Sonya Adams, Vice President of Mobility and Convenience Retail in the UK says, “Safety comes first at BP; we are always looking at ways we can create a safer working environment for colleagues and a better retail experience for customers. We serve millions of customers every week with the vast majority of transactions being pleasant and positive. However, in line with the rest of the retail sector, we are seeing an increase in crime and abuse of our colleagues, and that’s unacceptable. We will continue to collaborate with others in the sector, and invest in technology like Auror and the Reveal body cameras to help us combat these issues.”

BP’s aim is to keep its colleagues and customers safe by increasing their ability to gather and share information on crime with local police and other retails, along with putting in place store hardening measures and introducing the latest technologies to fight against the rise in retail crime.

Auror is a widely recognised tool in the industry to help reduce verbal abuse incidents and tackle crime head on with swift incident reporting, identification of repeat offenders, collaboration with law enforcement and real time alerts on local criminal activities. Vice President at Auror UK & Europe, Mark Gleeson says, “Regardless of brand or size of the store, the crime occurring in retail isn’t isolated or small-scale crime – in fact its 10% of offenders causing over 60% of the loss and violence in our retail communities. Auror is committed to working with BP across the UK to help connect crime and to stop the impact of criminal networks.”

Alongside the Auror system, Reveal body cams are being introduced following a successful pilot in 2023 at 8 stores across the UK facing high levels of verbal abuse. The introduction of the cameras resulting in a decrease in verbal abuse incidents and collaboration with the local police force produced positive results with several incidents of customers apologising for their behaviour after seeing their actions on the front facing screens of the body worn cameras. The cameras are currently in use at 70 BP stores in the UK and being rolled out at pace to other stores with high rates of incidents.

Alisdair Field, CEO at Reveal commented, “The feedback from BP’s retail team members has been overwhelmingly positive during the pilot. As highlighted, Reveal body cameras significantly enhanced their job satisfaction by reducing incidents. Moreover, the cameras greatly improved interactions with security and police, thanks to the invaluable footage for incident reporting. We are proud of how our technology has substantially boosted safety and protection for BP’s retail teams and are delighted to see this extended across BP stores.”

The rise in retail crime presents significant challenges, but the collaborative efforts of retailers, government agencies, and police forces offer a beacon of hope. By sharing information, deploying advanced technologies, and implementing new and amended policies, the collective response to retail crime is constantly improving and adapting, allowing businesses to thrive in a safer environment without the constant threat of criminal activity and potential abuse without consequence hanging over retail employees and business’ heads.  By working together, this upwards trend can be halted and reversed, with the shopping experience being a safe and enjoyable experience for all.







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