It’s not all bad news about retail crime in 2003 says Rod Addy

These are dangerous times to be a shop worker, according to the British Retail Consortium’s 11th Annual Crime Survey. Cases of violence to retailers and their staff leapt 17% from 2002 to 2003. Incidences of verbal abuse were up 109% and threats 161%. The number of robberies rose 64%, incurring more than double the losses in 2002, while staff theft from food and drink shops was up 89%.
Kevin Hawkins, director general of the BRC, says: “Most worrying is that two thirds of the cases of violence against our staff occur when they are dealing with shop thieves, the majority of whom are likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
Hawkins cites research showing that 58% of those arrested for drug-related offences admitted shoplifting, and says he is concerned about the numbers of young people involved in retail crime.
He calls on the police and the government to recognise retail crime as a separate, priority category.
“We are disappointed that narrowly drawn national key performance indicators for the police continue to discriminate against retail crime and against business crime in general.”
The report urges retailers not to resign themselves to the idea that things are going to get worse. In other areas there has been important progress.
The cost of crime to retailers was down £700m to £1bn in 2003, a fall that the BRC attributes largely to the £3.25bn that retailers have invested in security measures in the last three years.
The Home Office instigated a number of measures in response to the BRC’s 2002 crime survey, in particular its efforts to give greater visibility to retail crime by establishing a Business Crime Team to work with the police and the BRC.
This was in response to the BRC’s comments on the Home Office’s inability to identify business crime in nearly all its crime categories.
The government provided a £900,000 grant towards the launch of Action Against Business Crime, a joint venture between the Home Office and the BRC, in November 2003. Headed by Michael Schuck as chief executive, the organisation is establishing Retail Crime Partnerships across the country to enable retailers to link up with other organisations on crime prevention schemes. Hawkins says its work has attracted positive interest from Europe and from retailers and police in the US.
These efforts have achieved results. According to the survey, food retailers reported 65% fewer instances of criminal damage. Reported customer theft dropped by 35%, burglaries fell slightly by 3% and till robberies were down 16%.
Hawkins calls for an increased recognition by the government and the police that responding to shop crime would help to curb other types of offence.
More preventative drug rehabilitation programmes and youth work will help to stop offenders from carrying out crimes when they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The BRC’s line is this: now that the war on retail crime is delivering results, particularly in terms of its cost, efforts must be redoubled by all parties in order to drive home the advantage.