Retail Crime Action Plan shows early impact, says NPCC

The Retail Crime Action Plan launched last year to drive down shoplifting and violence against shop worker is already showing “positive results”, says the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Feb 12, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Chief Superintendent Alex Goss

A ‘dip sample’ of force data shows an increase in attendance at shoplifting incidents, it said.

Figures published in a report by the Co-op last week showed that previously police failed to attend in nearly four-fifths (79 per cent) of incidents where a criminal had been detained.

Since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan, the non-attendance rate has improved to 38 per cent, said the NPCC.

The Retail Crime Action Plan, which set out policing’s commitment to tackling shoplifting and prioritising attendance where violence was involved or a shoplifter was detained by security guards, was launched in October 2023.

Operational implementation of the plan, which was commissioned by the Policing Minister and developed by policing in partnership with the Government, has shown significant impact from a dip sample of 31 police forces carried out in December 2023.

Of more than 1,500 crimes reviewed across all retailers, police attended 60 per cent where violence had been used, with 16 per cent of forces sampled reporting 100 per cent attendance to this type of incident.

Police attendance for a detained shoplifter was 76 per cent with 21 per cent of forces again showing 100 per cent attendance.

The NPCC said a number of factors impact attendance in both types of incident. This includes whether an offender has left the scene or been let go before police were called, how soon after the incident it is reported, whether a retailer may not support a prosecution, or when officers are dealing with or are diverted to an urgent incident elsewhere.

Police attendance will be assessed based on risk, and prolific or juvenile offenders will be treated with elevated priority.

The plan also reaffirmed policing’s commitment to follow up on any evidence that could reasonably lead to catching a perpetrator.

The NPCC added that forces will step up targeted hotspot patrols in badly affected areas.

The plan also sets out advice for retailers on how to provide the best possible evidence for police to pursue in any case, making clear they should send CCTV footage of the whole incident and an image of the shoplifter via the digital evidence management system as quickly as possible after an offence has been committed.

Chief Superintendent Alex Goss, NPCC lead for retail crime, said: “Retail crime can have a significant impact on victims, which is why we are committed to doing all we can to reduce thefts and pursue offenders, especially those prolific and habitual offenders who cause misery within the community.

“The Retail Crime Action Plan sets out clear guidelines for the response to retail crime and it’s positive to see police forces have really embedded this in their operational work, a fact clearly shown in this sample of incidents.

“At the same time, we know organised crime can also be responsible for a proportion of these offences. This is why we welcome the collaboration between retailers, police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and policing through Project Pegasus, which enhances our ability to identify and tackle the groups involved.

“The intelligence aspect to Project Pegasus within national policing unit, Opal, is undergoing recruitment and work has already started to collate information on prolific offenders and groups around the country. We look forward to reporting further results in due course.”

Pegasus is privately funded by retailers and is spearheaded by Sussex PCC Katy Bourne and looks to close the gap between organised retail crime and the police response to it.

Its initial purpose will be to collate a national picture of the scale and scope of the issues, subsequently identifying organised crime groups and high priority offenders so local forces can take action.

Contributing industry members of the Pegasus partnership will provide intelligence and information to Opal and have the ability to refer crime series to them. Opal will then prioritise and focus on the series with the highest threat, harm and risk.

Crime and 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 will not tolerate it, which is why we launched the Retail Crime Action Plan and I am very encouraged by the progress already being made by police in delivering against their commitments.

“I won’t be complacent however, 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.”

Paul Gerrard, Co-op director of campaign and public affairs, added: “We welcomed the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan – the safety and security of my colleagues and, our communities, is our number one priority – and, our own experience  shows early signs of advancement in police response rates since its introduction.

“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.

“We urge MP’s to back the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to make attacking a shop worker a stand-alone offence, and I am increasingly confident that there is now the opportunity and appetite to collaborate further with police forces to build on the green shoots of improvement seen so far.”

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