News that police forces are to pledge to investigate every crime have been welcomed by independent retailers and security companies working with them.
According to reports in the national media, more resources and time are to be dedicated to tackle reported offences, including shoplifting, where there is a ‘reasonable lead’, such as CCTV footage or eyewitness accounts.
Bruce Nichol, BOSS operations director, said: “Unpaid fuel costs forecourt operators nearly £100m a year. We would support appropriate action being taken against persistent offenders who either claim to have no means to pay or simply forget to pay at the till.
“Annually Payment Watch deals with more than 1.5 million incidents of unpaid fuel and while the majority of incidents are a genuine mistake, there is a cohort of offenders who appear to deliberately evade paying for fuel. We know of one group who have been responsible for more than £200,000 of unpaid fuel and no action has been taken against them.”
Reacting to the reports, the national president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) Muntazir Dipoti said: “Shop theft is not victimless. It blights the lives of independent retailers on a daily basis and has significant implications for a store’s viability. I am sure that every member has been affected by shop theft at some point and, sadly, many incidents of shoplifting are becoming increasingly violent.
“After so many years of police forces appearing to turn a blind eye to shoplifting offences, the Fed is pleased to hear that these crimes will be investigated, provided there is evidence available to help lead to a conviction.
“However, we are interested in action and not just words, so the Fed will be writing to chief constables and police and crime commissioners to ensure that officers do act when cases of shop theft are reported.”
News of the pledges, which are expected to be made in coming weeks, come as latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that incidents of shoplifting increased by a quarter (24 per cent) in England and Wales in the year to March 2023.
However, commenting on this data, Mr Dipoti said that as many retailers failed to report shop theft because of poor police responses, the scale of the problem could be much worse.
“Retailers are disillusioned by the lack of police action when crimes are committed so they do not report them. It is, therefore, possible that the number of cases of shop theft over this period could be even higher.”
Just recently, the Fed called for government grants to help independent retailers to beef up their security systems.
Mr Dipoti said: “Tackling shop theft has to be given the energy and priority it deserves from the police and the justice system and independent retailers should be given financial support so they can invest in better-quality CCTV to protect them, their staff and their businesses.”