40% of violent shoplifting crimes not attended by police, figures reveal

Officers failed to attend four out of ten violent incidents (REUTERS)
Officers failed to attend four out of ten violent incidents (REUTERS)

Police chiefs claim to be making progress in tackling shoplifting despite new figures showing that officers failed to attend four out of ten violent incidents.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said a “retail crime action plan" introduced in October, in response to concerns about shop thefts going unpunished, was already having an “early impact” in tackling such offending.

Action so far included steps to identify organised crime groups and prolific offenders involved in shoplifting and “prioritising attendance where violence was involved or a shoplifter was detained”, the council said.

But it said that although a review of 1,500 shoplifting crimes nationwide in December had shown that 16 per cent of forces had attended every shop theft involving violence, overall officers had still failed to turn up at 40 per cent of such crimes.

Police only attended six out of ten violent shoplifting incidents overall.

The police chiefs’ figures - which do not include force by force breakdown - also show said that officers only attended 76 per cent of shoplifting crimes where a suspect was detained.

That meant officers failed to arrive to help retailers and security guards in 24 per cent of such offences nationwide.

The reasons for non-attendance were said to include officers being “diverted to an urgent incident elsewhere” or the offender having left the scene of the crime or being let go before police were called.

Others included the willingness of the retailer to support a prosecution and how long after the crime it was reported.

Paul Gerrard, the campaign and public affairs director at the Co-op, which has been calling for a new offence of assaulting a shop worker, said that his company welcomed “early signs of advancement” in police response rates.

He added: “Retail crime is neither petty nor victimless – instead it can be volatile and dangerous and fuels local illicit activities. However, where clear co-operation and partnerships exists with forces, it is shown to be a solvable issue.”

Policing minister Chris Philp said: “Shoplifting has a detrimental impact not only businesses and high streets, but retail workers themselves who can be subject to unacceptable intimidation and violence.

“We must take a zero-tolerance approach to shoplifting and will continue working with the police and retailers to bear down on this crime – preventing it from happening and making sure perpetrators face justice when it does occur.”