Few police forces have been pro-actively using on-the-spot fines to combat shoplifting since new legislation was introduced on November 1.
Initial findings by the Home Office, yet to be released, suggest that of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, only five authorities have made widespread use of fixed penalty notices.
Official statistics will not be released until May or June, but The Grocer understands that West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Cornwall and Devonshire, Essex and Lancashire are among the few forces to have taken up their powers to any significant extent.
In the past six months, Essex Police has recorded 3,758 offences of shoplifting and issued 271 notices; West Yorkshire has issued 508 fixed penalty notices and Cornwall and Devonshire Police has issued 84.
Sergeant Alan Mobbs said that the 84 notices issued in Cornwall were a small proportion of the 1,361 shoplifting arrests, but explained that many of the thieves were not eligible for on-the-spot fines because of previous records.
Under the legislation, first-time offenders can be fined £80 for stealing goods worth up to £100, as can those who cause criminal damage valued at less than £300. Retailers claim the new laws will decriminalise shoplifting.
But Paul Delves, managing director of Harry Tuffins, said: “The legislation is a step in the right direction because at least the shoplifters have to pay up now. But retailers, the victims of crime, should get a share of the fine too.”