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ACS figures show a 409% increase in thefts against the convenience sector

Theft against the convenience sector has soared by 409% in the past year, reaching 5.6 million incidents, according to new ACS figures.

The scale of the crisis blighting communities across the UK was highlighted in the trade body’s 2024 Crime Report, published today.

It revealed the surge in shoplifting equated to 600 incidents of theft occurring every hour in 2023.

While the number one motivation for stealing remains to fund an alcohol or drug habit, 76% of retailers believe organised crime has become more prevalent over the past year, the report showed.

“Convenience stores are increasingly targeted by gangs stealing to order and looting,” said Spar retailer Susan Connolly. ”We share evidence, and I would encourage retailers to report crime every time, but we need to have faith that the police will investigate offences and use that data – particularly to target these organised groups.”

The report also showed cases of violence against staff was worsening, up 85.4% to 76,000 incidents, with encountering shop thieves the top trigger for abuse.

ACS said retailers were facing rising levels of crime despite investing in security and detection measures, such as CCTV, guards, intruder alarms, and internal communication systems. Its crime report showed retailers spent £339m on these deterrents over the past year.

With the cost of crime and the cost of investing in security measures, ACS said it was resulting in a 10p ‘crime tax’ on every transaction that takes in stores across the UK, up from 6p the year before.

Freshfields Market owner Benedict Selvaratnam said: “I’ve witnessed first-hand the escalating challenge of shop theft. This issue not only affects our business’ already strained finances, but it also puts our staff and customers in distress. We’ve had to implement significant security measures to protect our premises and people, but crime remains a daily problem for us.”

Following the report’s launch, ACS is calling on government to take action in tacking the UK’s retail crime crisis. These include delivering justice for shopworkers and effective sanctions for offenders, focusing additional resources on neighbourhood policing, and supporting further investment in technology to deter and detect criminals.

ACS CEO James Lowman said: “Retailers are facing an onslaught of crime committed against their businesses on a daily basis, with some losing tens of thousands of pounds per year to theft alone. This extended crimewave cannot be allowed to continue. Thieves are known to the community and to the police but they simply do not care, and continue on regardless, filling baskets and trolleys and walking out without fear of reproach.

“There have been positive steps forward made in recent months with the publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan and the launching of Operation Pegasus to try and better identify prolific offenders and bring them to justice, but the figures in our report demonstrate that more needs to be done urgently. Nobody should have to come to work and face what retailers and their colleagues have faced over the last year.”

The publication of the 2024 Crime Report comes just weeks ahead of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. ACS has been calling on all PCCs to share important information about how they are prioritising retail crime, how retailers can report incidents most effectively, and what strategies are in place to get prolific offenders off the streets.