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UK retailers urge government action amid rising crime rates

A police officer walks past a boarded up Sainsbury's local store, ahead of the Notting Hill Carnival, in London, Britain, on August 26, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Scores of UK retail leaders have written a letter to the government, sounding the alarm about rising crime levels targeting their businesses, including abuse of retail workers and shoplifting.

The letter's signatories were 88 British retail leaders, including the bosses of Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Marks & Spencer retail stores, who pleaded with Home Secretary Suella Braverman to take a decisive action to curb this phenomenon.

The letter came after the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said its 2023 crime survey shows that incidents of violence and abuse towards retail workers have almost doubled compared with pre-COVID levels to hit 867 incidents every day in 2021 and 2022.

The consortium urged mayors, police, and crime commissioners across the UK to improve retail workers’ protection measures.

The BRC also put the scale of retail theft at 953 million pounds ($1.2 billion), despite over 700 million pounds in crime prevention spending by retailers.

"The situation has clearly got worse. A separate BRC survey of members in 2023 found that levels of shoplifting in 10 major cities have risen by an average of 27 percent," the letter added.

The data from that survey also showed that violent incidents have grown by as much as 68 percent in some cities.

Back in June, the BBC reported that London businesses were increasingly turning to private security because the Metropolitan Police would not intervene in shoplifting incidents.

The letter by the retail leaders urged that the government define abusing retail workers as a separate offense and impose tougher sentences for perpetrators.

The retail leaders also called for greater prioritization of retail crime by police forces across the UK, with BRC CEO Helen Dickinson saying, “It’s time the government put their words into action."

Earlier this month, the John Lewis Partnership, owner of department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, said Britain was seeing an "epidemic" of shoplifting.

Similarly, clothing chains Primark and Next said their profit margins were seriously hit by increased theft, while
supermarket Tesco said rising store crime had led it to offer its staff body-cams. 

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