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The Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) has expressed alarm at new data which show that shoplifting is at its highest level in 20 years.

According to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics, shop thefts in England and Wales were up by 32 per cent, with 402,482 offences announced in the year to September 2023.  This compared with 304,459 in September 2022.

Commenting on the increase, the Fed’s National President 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.”

He added that the cost-of-living crisis and social media had helped fuel the runaway increase in shoplifting offences.

“We are seeing regular customers turning to shoplifting because they can’t afford to live,” he said.

It was also possible that the levels were even higher, as many independent retailers were reluctant to report crimes because of poor police responses and paltry punishments if offenders did come to court.

Mr Dipoti said: “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.

“Tackling shop theft has to be given the energy and priority it deserves from the police, police and crime commissioners and from MPs, and independent retailers should be given financial support so they can invest in better-quality CCTV to protect them, their staff and their businesses.”

Last year, the Fed launched its Safe, Secure, Supported campaign calling for government grants of £1,500 to help independent retailers beef up their security systems.

Mr Dipoti said: “Quality CCTV images will allow police to successfully gain prosecutions. However, good quality security systems are expensive to buy and to install and the burden of crime prevention shouldn’t fall on retailers’ shoulders. Government intervention is crucial to safeguard retailers, particularly smaller shops. Now, more than ever, we need to protect ourselves, our staff and our livelihoods.”

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