Shoplifters and a law that doesn't deter them

A shopkeeper says he is losing thousands of pounds of stock each month, as figures show arrests are falling.

Kelsey said she continued to steal because she wasn't deterred by the sentences she received when caught

Kelsey was just 14 years old when she was introduced to drugs and taught how to steal from shops by an older man in order to pay for them. She is now 22 and has served seven prison sentences for shoplifting.

But she says people like her are getting away with shoplifting more than ever before - and shopkeepers report that it can cost them thousands of pounds in stock each month.

Official figures show that while the number of offences has increased over the last five years across England, the number of people being arrested and charged with shoplifting has decreased.

"Nine times out of 10 [you get away with it]. And you're not bothered about the consequences," Kelsey told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"Once you do get caught, it's a four-month jail sentence and you're out in two months."

Kelsey - whose surname and location we have chosen not to reveal - said she knew it was wrong and is now on treatment for heroin addiction and is no longer shoplifting.

The 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act defined "low-value shoplifting" as a summary offence, which meant police forces decided they would no longer investigate thefts from shops of a value under £200.

Anyone who is caught in the act of stealing goods of less than £200 can still be arrested and face prosecution but the act allows them to plead guilty by post. They only have to attend the magistrates' court if they choose to deny the offence.

Home Office statistics show the number of offences of shoplifting in England rose by nearly 23% between 2013 and 2017.

Figures from 27 of 38 police forces in England - obtained by the BBC - show that during the same period arrests of shoplifters dropped by 17% and charges fell by 25% in that time.

'Everyone's at it'

Kelsey says that, before she gave up shoplifting for good, she had continued to offend because she knew she would only get a short sentence. The last time she was prosecuted, and despite her previous convictions, she was only given a suspended sentence.

"People are just going in the morning to get their first [fix] of the day. They steal £40 worth of stuff and sell it for £20 to get three bags [of heroin]," she said.

"If you go down to the town centre, everyone's at it."

Paul Cheema says he's been hit hard by shoplifting

That is a view that is shared by many shopkeepers up and down the country.

Paul Cheema, who owns two convenience stores in Coventry, says the losses he faces from shoplifting are now so high, he recently had to close a third store.

"We've never known shop crime as bad as it's been for the last two or three years," he said.

"Some weeks we were losing £1,000 worth of stock. Can I survive that? No."

On top of those losses, Paul says he has had to increase investment in deterrents, including CCTV and tagging expensive items such as meat and alcohol.

Chris Noice, from the Association of Convenience Stores, said his members had told him thefts were increasing - and he was concerned about the number of times shoplifting quickly escalated to violence when thieves were challenged.

"Anecdotally, years ago if someone was challenged they just drop stuff and run off. Now they're leading to violence and it's because they think police won't respond to that," he said.

The Freedom of Information request by the Victoria Derbyshire Programme asked every police force in England how many people had been arrested for shoplifting each year between 2013 to 2017 and, subsequently, how many charges were brought for shoplifting in each of those years.

Surrey Police had a 69% drop in arrests during that period - the biggest drop of any force who responded to the FOI request. Surrey also saw a drop in charges of more than 46%.

A statement from Surrey Police said: "Increased demand, combined with the increasingly complex nature of criminal investigations and financial challenges have led to forces making difficult decision as to how we use resources and prioritise our response to certain crime types or incidents."

Police 'finding alternatives'

The number of charges for shoplifting brought by the Metropolitan Police nearly halved in five years, dropping from 9,596 in 2013 to 5,252 in 2017.

Sgt Rob Harris leads a policing team covering Britain's busiest shopping street - Oxford Street in London.

He says that while arrests may be going down, his team now uses alternatives to arrests to deal with shoplifters, such as street cautions.

"The vast majority of it we're dealing with out on the streets and never bringing them in to custody in the first place," he said.

"We've got a limited number of officers so we can't deal with every single one... so shops will self-assess and decide whether it's worth calling us or not."

Between 2010 and 2017 there has been a 20% drop in real terms in police funding in England and Wales, which has led to 20,000 fewer officers.

Sgt Harris said that has made police forces look at different ways of dealing with crimes such as shoplifting.

The Home Office said in a statement: "We are clear that all crimes reported to the police should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences."

Watch the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel in the UK and on iPlayer afterwards.

Date: 14 September 2018 | Source: BBC

More UK News

Pharmacists warn of a 'surge' in shortage of common medicines

Patients in England are struggling to get hold of drugs such as painkillers and anti-depressants

Police plan dig in hunt for Mary Duncan missing 43 years

Detectives plan to excavate land in the search for a young mum who vanished almost 43 years ago, BBC..

Coventry council 'slowest to fill potholes'

Some councils aim to fill potholes within minutes but others take more than a day, new figures show..

Banksy artwork in Port Talbot sold for 'six-figure sum'

Season's Greetings will remain in Port Talbot for "two to three years" as it is bought by a gallery..

Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth win share of £20m culture fund

Five areas in England will benefit from a new Cultural Development Fund to boost local culture

'My son's severe asthma is very distressing'

Every three seconds in the UK, someone has an asthma attack which could be life-threatening, a chari..
View More

More Telford News

 MP's warning over Broseley's Broxit move

Broseley Town Council has been told it cannot choose to complete a "Broxit..

 Future Fit: A&E recommendation rubber stamped

Health officials have confirmed their choice of Royal Shrewsbury Hospital ..

 Row over key document in Shropshire's Future Fit discussions

A row has broken out over a key document in Shropshire's Future Fit discus..

 Four admit role in violent family fracas in Telford

The trial of seven men accused of leaving two people with serious injuries..

 There is no place for Future Fit says leader of Telford & Wrekin Council

The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council is calling on health bosses to ..

 Former coronary care nurse takes top business role at UK medical supply firm

A former coronary care nurse has taken a top role with one of the UK’s lead..
View More

Telford Businesses

Calendar Countdown

Upcoming Events in Telford

19 Jan 2019

Saturday 19 January 7.30pm

Tickets £25

View Details

25 Jan 2019

Friday 25 January 7.30pm


View Details

31 Jan 2019

Thursday 31 January 7.30pm

Tickets £23

Concession £21.50

View Details

09 Feb 2019

Saturday 9 February 7.30pm

Adult: £26.50

Concessions: £23.50

View Details
View More