"Shop crime has reached epidemic levels" says Peter Lilley

- Monday, 11th August 2003

 

Commenting on figures showing that each shop in Britain now suffers an average 30 crimes a year, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden said: "Retail crime has reached epidemic levels, with 8.5 million customer thefts in 2002. Many shopkeepers are in a virtual war zone."

The figures show the true level of crime in Britain may be at least 60 per cent higher than the British Crime Survey suggests.

Peter Lilley said: "The British Crime Survey‘s total of 12.5 million crimes omits more than eight million retail crimes.

"I understand from retailers in Hitchin that they were unaware that shoplifting was not included in the British Crime Survey‘s figures. Despite encouragement for retailers to report instances of shoplifting, many don‘t because of perceived lack of police interest. Retailers in the town believe that more a visible police presence would improve the situation. Mike Weaver of Harpenden First said that shoplifting is a considerable worry for local traders and they believe gangs use Thameslink for quick access and getaway to the town."

Peter Lilley went on: "I believe that much more attention needs to be paid to the three measures that can really have an effect on crime.

"First, we need effective, intensive, abstinence based rehabilitation for hard drug addicts, who may account for as much as 50 per cent of retail crime.

"Secondly, we need the additional 40,000 extra police, to which the Conservative Party is committed.

"Thirdly, we need real effort by the Home Office to promote ‘designing out‘ of crime through sensible preventative measures at retail premises."

"Our analysis shows that:

?
? The average shop in Britain suffered an average of 30 crimes in 2002, compared to 25 crimes in 2001.
? Retail crime cost the average shopkeeper nearly ?2,700 last year.
? There were 8.5 million customer thefts in 2002.
? There was a retail crime every 3.7 seconds.
? The cost of retail crime is the equivalent to ?90 a household every year.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The hidden cost of retail crime

Analysis of figures produced by the British Retail Consortium in their Retail Crime Survey indicates that there were over 8.5 million incidents of retail crime in 2002. The British Crime Survey, which measured 12.3 million crimes, does not include retail crime in its figures. Therefore, the real level of British Crime may be 40 per cent higher than the Government‘s figures.

YearCustomer TheftBritish Crime SurveyTotal
20028,522,72712,308,00020,830,727
The number of customer thefts is calculated from figures on page 27 of the British Retail consortium‘s 10th Retail Crime Survey 2002. The figure from the British Crime Survey is derived from Table 3.01 of the Home Office‘s Crime in England and Wales 2002/2003.

Retail crime and drugs The high level of retail crime is an indicator of Britain‘s spiralling drugs problem.
? According to the British Retail Consortium, retail crime is one of the major sources of money for drug addicts, and is the route into a culture of crime for many young people. Since the chances of getting caught are not high, and since those who are caught are not necessarily prosecuted, young people and regular drug abusers view retailers as an easy target.

? The 1999 Retail Crime Survey found that over 50 per cent of those arrested for customer theft were drug abusers funding their addiction. Research has shown that a typical addict, funding his or her addiction through acquisitive crime - mainly shop theft - will need to steal goods to the value of between ?22,000 and ?44,000 each year. The goods will be redeemed for either money - as little as 25 per cent of market value - or drugs (Retail Crime Survey 2002, p. 13).

? In a study carried out in London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Sunderland in 1998-99, 64 per cent of those arrested for theft from shops tested positive for opiates (including heroin) and 41 per cent. tested positive for cocaine. When interviewed, 85 per cent of those arrested for shop theft reported using heroin or cocaine in the previous year (HC Debs, col. 19W, 19 September 2002).

? In a study carried out on behalf of the Drug Prevention Advisory Service between October 2000 and March 2001, 23 per cent of the 19,190 arrestees who sought advice on drug or alcohol addiction had been arrested for shop theft. Similarly, 38 per cent of those who sought advice admitted shop theft to be a main source of income, whilst 48 per cent. admitted shop theft in the previous 30 days (HC Debs, col. 19W, 19 September 2002).

Conservative pledge on drugs
? Conservatives will provide young people with an exit point from the conveyor belt of crime and drug addiction. We will create 20,000 more drug rehab places for young hard drug addicts. This will mean a 1,000 per cent increase, which will result in a place for every young hard drug addict. Provision of these places will be universal, and attendance will be compulsory. Young people will have the option of getting themselves off these drugs, which both ruin lives and lead to criminality on our streets and in our communities, but if they fail to comply they will face criminal proceedings.
Designing out crime ? ‘Designing out Crime‘ - or ‘situational prevention‘ - means tackling crime, not by improving society, increasing the number of police, or enhancing the criminal justice system, but through reducing the opportunities for criminals. This approach has been pioneered in recent years by the retail sector.

? Designing out crime involves the manipulation of the environment in such as way as to:

- Increase the effort involved in committing crime;
- Increase the risks involved in committing crime; and
- Reducing the rewards that crime offers.

? Designing out crime also means manipulating the environment so that offenders can be caught more quickly, and brought to justice more swiftly. Examples of ‘designing out crime‘ are: ‘target hardening‘ through better security measures, such as steering locks; more sophisticated forms of technology including intruder alarms, CCTV, breathalysers, and speed cameras; the surveillance of specific locations; the use of vandal resistant designs and materials in schools and other public places; neighbourhood watch schemes and other forms of public surveillance; and measures such as the co-ordination of public transport with pub closing times.

? Situational Prevention is a crime control approach that can be utilized within any organizational or management structure and that is open, not just to the police, but to whoever can muster the resources and energy to tackle the project in hand.

? Designing out crime initiatives are likely to have the greatest impact on the opportunistic offenders, who are likely to be deterred by basic security measures. However, since all classes of crime are greatly affected by ‘situational contingencies‘, thorough security designs will also have an impact on more professional offenders.

? Ken Pease, from the Jill Dando Institute has argued that high crime areas generally have high rates of crime because of the number of repeat victims. Once an area has a reputation as an easy target, criminals will target it again and again. As a result, developing designs to deter crime in these areas will impact on the overall level of crime.
40,000 extra police Conservatives believe we will not make a serious impact on crime unless we have a large number of additional police officers on our streets. That is why we have promised to provide an extra 40,000 police officers for England and Wales. This is the equivalent to a 30 per cent increase, and will enable us to provide true neighbourhood policing.

 

 

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