By Marcus Leach
The overall cost of retail crime has soared by 31 per cent to £1.4 billion as the sector is increasingly targeted by serious, organised criminals.
This figure includes the value of goods stolen and damage done combined with the money retailers spend on preventing and tackling crime.
The British Retail Consortium's (BRC's) Retail Crime Survey 2011, published today (Monday) shows fewer incidents for many types of crime but each incident on average has been more costly and so total losses have increased sharply compared with the previous year.
Expenditure on crime prevention by retailers taking part in the survey rose by 1.4 per cent to £214 million, a median spend of £700,000 per company. This has substantially reduced incidents of opportunistic crime against stores but combating the rise in violent crime retailers and their staff are exposed to requires the support of law makers and enforcers.
The number of robberies increased by 20 per cent and the average cost per incident went up 17 per cent from £847 to £989. Most worryingly, increases in the use of weapons and physical violence were reported.
Other key findings from the survey include:
- More than 35,000 retail workers suffered from physical attacks, verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour during the course of the year, excluding staff affected by the August riots. There were 26 incidents per 1000 employees last year, an increase of 83 per cent on 2009/10. The rise is partly attributed to staff being encouraged to report all threats and incidents of verbal assault.
- For the retailers in our survey the August riots had an impact on more than 20,000 retail staff, representing 1.5 per cent of retail employees. 56 per cent of retailers affected by the riots also reported a negative impact on sales in the immediate aftermath of the disturbances.
- The estimated total value of goods stolen by customers across the whole sector was over £147 million, up £10 million on the previous year. Customer theft accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the cost of crime for the retailers in our survey. The number of customer thefts is between 1.5 and 2 million a year, more than one every minute. The number of incidents fell by 19 per cent compared with the previous year but losses still rose as costs per incident went up 21 per cent to £85.50, from £70.44 in 2009/10.
- The number of burglaries per 100 stores was down 42 per cent but the cost per incident rose sharply by 83 per cent. The average value of goods taken in a burglary was more than £2,000.
- Incidents of fraud increased significantly with 78 per cent of retailers noting a rise. It now accounts for more than 28 per cent of retail crime by cost, second only to customer theft.
"Retailers have made significant investment to protect their staff, stock and premises from opportunistic crime," British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said.
"The falling number of many types of crime is testament to the sector's own efforts.
"What is left is a core of more serious and organised criminals who are making off with goods in larger quantities and of higher value. These are violent law-breakers who pose a danger to society at large, not solely the retail sector.
"Criminals targeting the retail sector need to be punished appropriately, particularly those who use weapons or attack staff. New sentencing guidelines coming into force today that recognise the impact of the riots are a start but need to go further.
"Too many thieves get let off with a fine and there is no comeback when they don't pay it. There needs to be robust enforcement that reflects the serious impact violent or repeat offenders have on the retail sector and more widely on our communities.
"An understanding of the link between retail crime and serious, organised crime is particularly important as the Government moves forward with its plans for a National Crime Agency and directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
"Retail crime doesn't only affect shops and retail staff. It impacts directly on communities, does further damage to our struggling high streets and encourages wider criminal activity. Anyone deciding local policing priorities needs to recognise this and give retail crime the priority it deserves."
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