Shoplifting: The Battle On The High Street?

Since 2019 shoplifting has nearly doubled, costing retailers just short of £1 billion pounds a year. But aside from the financial impact, retailers are reporting that thieves are becoming more brazen and their methods more aggressive. Speaking to staff and business owners on the front line, Paul Brand investigates the reasons behind Britain's shoplifting epidemic.

Co-op store manager Callum invites Paul to spend a morning on the shopfloor in Manchester to see firsthand what staff are up against. Within two minutes of looking at the CCTV in the back room, a shoplifter strikes. Callum explains that staff aren’t advised to confront shoplifters directly, revealing he’s been threatened with needles and his staff have been attacked with glass bottles.

– Prof Emmeline Taylor, Professor of Criminology, City University of London 

We’ll meet One Stop shop worker Niall Stranix who bravely fought off a gun-wielding shoplifter, as well as independent business owner Domonique Woodward who has had to physically wrestle with shoplifters. She believes shoplifters feel protected and emboldened by the law to steal as long as the goods are less than £200. 

We’ll speak to Benedict Selvaratnam, who has run Freshfields market convenience store in Croydon for over 8 years but wants to sell up due to relentless rates of shoplifting and attacks on staff. Benedict estimates he is losing £1000 a week to shoplifting and has forked out thousands of pounds on extra security measures.

Katy Bourne, the Police and Crime Commissioners lead for retail crime, said: “There has been a myth going around that the police will only arrest if the goods that are stolen are more than 250 pounds. That is actually not true and no police forces will tell you that.”

If shopkeepers feel that the police aren’t turning up, who are they turning to? We’ll look into the private businesses who seek to arrest and prosecute shoplifters instead of the police, as well as the latest AI technology which is capturing faces of potential shoplifters across the UK. 

Useful links: 

Report a crime to the Police 

Report a crime anonymously to Crimestoppers

Visit the British Retail Consortium’s website 

Read the British Retail Consortium’s Crime Survey 2023 

Visit the Association of Convenience Stores’s website  

USDAW offer support to shop workers who may be facing violence and abuse