By Daniel Hunter
The overall cost of retail crime has soared by 15.6 per cent in a year to £1.6 billion, but dramatically fewer incidents are being reported to police, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The £1.6 billion figure covers retail crime of all types and includes the value of goods stolen and damage done plus the money retailers spend on prevention.
Numbers of incidents of crime rose across all categories apart from violence against staff and robbery. Customer thefts are the most common retail crime (83 per cent of all incidents) but saw the biggest fall in reporting. In 2011 47 per cent of customer thefts were reported. In this survey that was down to just 12 per cent, suggesting retailers' confidence in police responses needs to be improved.
The survey indicates that the retail sector as a whole suffers 2 million of these shoplifting incidents each year involving around £200 million worth of goods. The average value of goods stolen in each offence has risen 28 per cent to £109.
The British Retail Consortium's (BRC) Retail Crime Survey 2012 is published today (Monday). It gathers data directly from 44 retailers — 58 per cent of the retail sector by turnover — and is the BRC's most comprehensive crime survey so far.
With the recently elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) now responsible for setting local crime-fighting plans, the BRC is concerned that such huge under-reporting means they are not getting a true picture of the scale of retail crime. That could distort their priorities.
The survey shows e-crime is now the mostly costly form of retail crime. Costs increased for all crimes with the exception of shop break-ins. The survey also shows retailers spending more on efforts to protect their staff, stock and customers. The retailers in the survey spent an average £750,000 each on crime prevention - seven per cent more than the previous year.
British Retail Consortium Director General, Helen Dickinson, said: "Systematic targeting of higher value goods by organised criminals is pushing up the cost of retail crime but the proportion of shoplifting incidents reported to police has plummeted to just one in eight — highlighting just how much there is to do to build retailers' confidence in the way police forces respond.
"There's been some success from closer engagement. The BRC's work with the Met. has led to the Mayor's office recognising retail crime as a force priority in London. But I'm concerned that Police and Crime Commissioners, who are now responsible for determining local crime-fighting priorities elsewhere, are not getting a true picture of the extent of retail crime.
"Retail crime doesn't only impact on its direct victims but on wider communities. It damages the reputation of local areas and those who steal from shops commit other sorts of crime.
"Retailers are spending more than ever on protecting their customers, staff and stock. They deserve the support of law enforcers and politicians. Staff should have confidence to report crime and that action will be taken against those responsible for it.
"The appointment of PCCs presents a new opportunity to understand and tackle retail crime and its effects. It's vital they put it high on their agendas."
Other key findings
- On average, nearly one in 20 stores suffered a robbery during the year. The average cost of each incident trebled to £3,005 from £989 the previous year — a result of more serious, organised offending.
- The survey suggests 28,700 retail workers across the whole retail sector suffered physical attacks, threats or verbal abuse during the year but the number of incidents per 1,000 employees had more than halved to 11.6, compared with the previous year.
- Fraud accounted for 26 per cent of the total cost of retail crime last year. All types of fraud had increased with identity fraud rising for 80 per cent of retailers in the survey. E-crime accounted for 37 per cent of the total cost of crime — making it a more costly retail crime than shoplifting.
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