BIRA report reveals surge in retail crime

A new report from the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) reveals a surge in retail crime negatively impacting independent shops across sectors and locations over the past 12 months.

The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, surveyed its members to grasp a snapshot of how stores have been hit by the crimewave.

The survey showed that 40% of shop owners or staff had experienced verbal abuse, while 6.5% had come up against physical harm from customers in the past year – which has included being spat at, assaulted or having shop items thrown at them. Of those physically abused, 82% decided to not report it to police, while those that did, said it didn’t lead to prosecution (18%).

The results also showed that 70% of those who had experienced verbal abuse said it has got worse in the last 12 months compared to the previous year, while 50% of those who suffered physical abuse said it had worsened.

Of those verbally abused – which included intimidation, swearing and aggressive behaviour, being threatened with violence and being shouted at, 66% did not report the offence to police. For those that were reported, 50% of shopkeepers said that police didn’t attend, while 42% had police attend the scene but no prosecutions taking place.

When questioned, many shop owners said that they ‘didn’t see the point’ in reporting it as ‘nothing happens’ and they didn’t believe that the police would be interested. Others said there was no police presence, and they didn’t feel that the police cared.

Items being taken from shops also are being shown to be varied, with reports of everything from hire products such as tools not being returned, to fashion items, gift sets, and children’s toys to balls of wool, books, knives, kettles, cleaning products, and even plants taken from over a shops fencing.

Retailers have also described it as ranging from ‘multiple small thefts’ to the items being taken by school children, middle-aged women and older men, to gangs running into stores and carrying out the items. One even reported that their own staff had taken money from them.

Most thefts (50%) were items costing up to £100 while most items were reported to be stolen during opening hours (87%) while just 3% were break-ins. The survey also showed that 7% of respondents had experienced cybercrime in the last 12 months either through fraudulent transactions, good purchased on stolen cards, and even company credit cards being used.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira, said: “Retail crime, such as theft and aggravated behaviour, seems to be reaching epidemic levels but there does seem to be more of an organised element to it. Larger retailers are able to continuously improve their security measures, with security staff and preventative measures as they have the budgets available to do so. However, for the smaller retailers, this is not possible and so they become even more of a target choice for criminals. and are left more vulnerable to being targeted.

“In recent years, shop crime has not been a priority for the police and crime commissioners but they need to sit up and listen. Our shop owners are hard-working and are getting abused and stolen from almost on a daily basis. This isn’t a victimless crime and livelihoods and our high streets are a stake here. My worry is that on the run-up to Christmas, this is only going to get worse,” he said.

In September, police forces across England and Wales pledged to pursue every lead that holds a ‘reasonable chance of apprehending criminals and solving crimes’ and said that this ‘back-to-basics’ approach would mark a significant milestone in addressing the rising concerns of retail crime, particularly theft and violence.

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