In recent weeks, the Centre for Social Justice has published a report called Desperate for a Fix, focusing on tackling retail crime and calling for fresh thinking at a national and local level to find policies that can address the increases in theft and other crime that retailers have experienced recently.
The report doesn’t necessarily approach the issue from a retailer’s perspective, but I think it gets to the meat of the issues, which I see as follows.
Firstly, retailers I speak to are very clear about what they want for people who commit crimes against their staff and their business: the toughest punishment to reflect the impact that the crime has had on a business and its people.
The report leads on creating a second chance system for offenders, particularly those with drug problems.
This is the right approach. Just as rehabilitation is better for society than imprisonment, so fixed penalty notices, that do nothing to either punish or help offenders, are the worst of all approaches. The government needs to face up to this, having ducked the issue since 2013 when they last published a report on how these fixed penalty notices, or out-of-court disposals, were being used. It found that half went unpaid, yet still they remain a mechanism for dealing with shop thieves.
The other big theme of the Centre for Social Justice’s report is the importance of engagement and ownership on retail crime from Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). Following on from this report, we have launched a pledge for PCCs to support and show their willingness to work with retailers and adopt some simple but effective ways of working to deal with shop theft when it occurs. Already we’ve seen some PCCs sign up to this and support from MPs across party lines for the principles in the pledge.
This report won’t eradicate retail crime. But if we work together retailers, PCCs, the justice system, central government, the police and the wider community we can start to reverse the growth in retail crime and make the convenience sector a safer place to work.