Retailers and trade bodies have welcomed the crackdown on crime

The government has confirmed plans to bring 13 major retailers and police together to crack down on the shoplifting scourge.

Under the Retail Crime Action Plan, launched today, policing minister Chris Philp said new measures included police prioritising attendance at shoplifting instances where violence has been used. Attendance will be assessed based on risk, and prolific or juvenile offenders will be treated with elevated priority.

Police have also reaffirmed their pledge to follow up on any evidence that could reasonably lead to catching a perpetrator. Forces will step up targeted hotspot patrols in badly affected areas.

Other measures include setting out advice for retailers on how to provide the best possible evidence for police to pursue cases. Where CCTV or other digital images are secured, police will run this through the Police National Database, using facial recognition technology to further aid efforts to identify and prosecute offenders – particularly prolific or potentially dangerous individuals.

As reported by The Grocer in September, a new team of police intelligence analysts is also being created to build a national picture of organised crime gangs operating across the UK.

Dubbed Operation Pegasus, and spearheaded by the business crime lead for the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners Katy Bourne, it marks the first national partnership of its kind. It is being backed the Home Office, as well as major retailers including John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots and Primark, who have collectively pledged to provide over £840,000 to get the initiative off the ground.

The majority of funding will go towards paying the analysts to work within Opal, the national intelligence unit for organised acquisitive crime, which is run by Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Taylor and overseen by North Wales Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman.

Recruitment for the analysts is underway, with the team set to be operational later this month.

The aim of Pegasus is to radically improve the way retailers are able to share intelligence with policing, to better understand the tactics used by organised retail crime gangs and identify more offenders. This will include development of a new information sharing platform and training for retailers.

“Pegasus will be a game-changer in the fight against retail crime, providing for the first time an accurate national picture of the organised groups from local families to cross-border criminals driving organised shop theft,” said Bourne.

“Retailers will agree ways to capture information that can be shared and analysed to create intelligence packages for police forces to target and track perpetrators.”

Co-op campaign and public affairs director Paul Gerrard said: “We welcome the commitments in the Retail Crime Action Plan to attend incidents of violence, incidents where offenders have been detained and ensure all evidence is collected so every reasonable line of enquiry can be followed.

“Alongside Operation Pegasus, which the Co-op is helping to fund, we are hopeful that this will mark the point at which the police will provide the support to protect shopworkers and shops so they can help the communities they serve thrive.”

The ACS, which has long lobbied against the rising tide of retail crime, has also welcomed the shoplifting crackdown. 

CEO James Lowman said: “The publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan sets a clear marker that the torrent of thefts and other offences committed against businesses will be taken seriously by police forces and the government and will be strongly welcomed by both large and small retailers.”