There has been a significant rise in the number of thefts from shops over the last year, and it is increasingly being linked to aggressive behaviour towards retailers and their staff, according to the Association of Convenience Stores’ 2018 Crime Report.

Retailers reported that challenging shop thieves was the biggest cause of aggressive behaviour in stores.

In total, there have been over 13,437 incidents of violence reported over the last year, although it’s likely that many more incidents have gone unreported.

Retailers have reported that violence against staff is the number one thing that they are most concerned about when dealing with crime.

There were over 950,000 incidents of theft estimated over the last year, rising from 575,000 in the previous year, with the top three reasons reported by retailers as to why people steal from their stores being:

• opportunism (36%);

• someone motivated by an alcohol or drug addiction (32%); and

• an organised group of criminals (22%).

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers and their staff are facing violence and abuse on a regular basis for enforcing the law, whether it be through challenging shop thieves, refusing the sale of age restricted products like tobacco and alcohol, or refusing to serve people that are intoxicated. Retailers need a consistent response from the police to ensure that when a crime is committed against a retailer it is taken seriously by the police and the courts.

“Shop thefts especially are often being committed by people that are dependent on drugs or alcohol, or part of an organised gang, with many now unafraid to turn to violence when challenged.

“Allowing shop theft to go unpunished means that these people go on to commit other offences, and where they have addiction problems they are not treated. We need fresh thinking from government and the police, because when shop theft is not tackled properly, it has wider implications for communities.

“The figures in our Crime Report provide an important insight into what retailers face when dealing with crime, but we expect the true impact to be much larger as a lack of faith in the consistency of police response has led to many incidents going unreported.”

Other key findings from the 2018 ACS Crime Report include:

• the total cost of crimes committed against the convenience sector over the last year was £193m, which equates to a 7p ‘crime tax’ on every transaction in stores;

• there were over 2,800 burglaries and over 9,300 robberies estimated in the last year;

• the total cost of burglaries to the sector has reached £20m; and

• the total cost of fraud (counterfeit notes, credit/debit card fraud etc) over the last year is £24m.

To help retailers and their staff deal with crime in their stores, ACS has worked with the Home Office to produce a short animation detailing ways to prevent and manage abuse from customers, as well as how to react when incidents occur.

To access the animation click here.