Shopkeepers are being forced to defend stores themselves as police ‘no longer treat shoplifting as a crime’ amid a rise in thefts, say retail chiefs.
Asda chairman Lord Stuart Rose said last night that the offence has effectively been ‘decriminalised’ thanks to a lack of action, and echoed calls by the boss of Tesco for more to be done to protect staff from attacks.
He also blamed complacent authorities which he said have ‘allowed’ lawlessness to thrive.
Reported retail thefts have risen by 27 per cent across ten of the UK’s largest cities – and were up by 68 per cent in some, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.
It came as footage emerged of brazen thieves running out of a JD Sports store with armfuls of clothes. It is the latest in a series of thefts to hit the high street, with Office for National Statistics data revealing that shoplifting levels in England and Wales had risen by 24 per cent in the past year.
John Lewis, Waitrose Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots are now issuing staff bodycams and training to deter violence from aggressive thieves while at Dunelm, duvets and pillowcases were locked up in PIN-code protected cabinets.
While it’s not possible to pinpoint how many thefts are as a result of financial hardship, recent figures from The Trussell Trust, Britain’s leading food bank network, show that 11.3 million people in the UK faced hunger last year due to a lack of money.
Yet many retail experts are reluctant to attribute the rise to desperate ‘normal people’, pointing out that most who struggle turn to food banks, or family, rather than theft.
Broadcaster and former politician Peter Whittle told TalkTV: ‘A lot of people maybe on the Left will say, ‘This is due to the cost of living crisis, what do you expect?”
‘The fact is there have been very hard times in the past and it’s insulting to say the people who fall on hard times are going to go and nick stuff.
‘There’s a general sense of a breakdown in law and order and I think, as well, a lot of people do it because they don’t think they’re going to be punished.’