The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) Retail Crime Survey 2011, published this morning, shows fewer incidents for many types of crime but each incident on average has been more costly and so total losses have increased sharply compared with the previous year.
Expenditure on crime prevention by retailers taking part in the survey rose by 1.4% to £214 million, a median spend of £700,000 per company. This has substantially reduced incidents of opportunistic crime against stores, but combating the rise in violent crime retailers and their staff are exposed to requires the support of law makers and enforcers.
The report shows that the overall cost of retail crime has soared by 31% to £1.4 billion as the sector is increasingly targeted by serious, organised criminals. This figure includes the value of goods stolen and damage done combined with the money retailers spend on preventing and tackling crime.
The number of robberies has also increased by 20%: the average cost per incident is up 17% from £847 to £989.
Most worryingly, increases in the use of weapons and physical violence have also been reported.
Key findinds from the latest BRC survey
Other key findings from the survey are as follows:
- More than 35,000 retail workers suffered from physical attacks, verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour during the course of the year, excluding staff affected by the August riots. There were 26 incidents per 1,000 employees last year, an increase of 83% on 2009-2010. The rise is partly attributed to staff being encouraged to report all threats and incidents of verbal assault.
- For the retailers in the BRC survey the August riots had an impact on more than 20,000 retail staff, representing 1.5% of retail employees. 56% of retailers affected by the riots also reported a negative impact on sales in the immediate aftermath of the disturbances.
- The estimated total value of goods stolen by customers across the whole sector was over £147 million, up £10 million on the previous year. Customer theft accounted for nearly 60% of the cost of crime for the retailers in the BRC survey. The number of customer thefts is between 1.5 and 2 million a year, more than one every minute. The number of incidents fell by 19% compared with the previous year, but losses still rose as costs per incident went up 21% to £85.50 (from £70.44 in 2009-2010).
- The number of burglaries per 100 stores was down 42%, but the cost per incident rose sharply by 83%. The average value of goods taken in a burglary was more than £2,000.
- Incidents of fraud increased significantly with 78% of retailers questioned noting a rise. It now accounts for more than 28% of retail crime by cost, second only to customer theft.
Violent law breakers a “danger to society”
Commenting on this morning’s published figures, British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “Retailers have made significant investments to protect their staff, stock and premises from opportunistic crime. The falling number of many types of crime is testament to the sector’s own efforts.”
He added: “What is left is a core of more serious and organised criminals who are making off with goods in larger quantities and of higher value. These are violent law breakers who pose a danger to society at large, not solely the retail sector.”
Robertson continued: “Criminals targeting the retail sector need to be punished appropriately, particularly those who use weapons or attack staff. New sentencing guidelines coming into force today that recognise the impact of the riots are a start but need to go further. Too many thieves are let off with a fine and there is no comeback when they don’t pay it. There needs to be robust enforcement that reflects the serious impact violent or repeat offenders have on the retail sector and, more widely, on our communities.”
In conclusion, Robertson explained: “An understanding of the link between retail crime and serious, organised crime is particularly important as the Government moves forward with its plans for a National Crime Agency and directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. Retail crime doesn’t only affect shops and retail staff. It impacts directly on communities, does further damage to our struggling high streets and encourages wider criminal activity. Anyone deciding local policing priorities needs to recognise this and give retail crime the priority it deserves.”
If you would like to read the entire BRC report click here
What ACPO has to say on the statistics
ACPO’s lead for economic crime, City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard, has responded to the BRC’s statistics.
“While the foundation for tackling retail crime is built at a local level, by building good relationships between community police officers and local retailers, this research also underscores the importance of the work done across forces to combat crimes such as credit card and online fraud,” explained Leppard.
“These offences have a disproportionately high cost to retailers and are perpetrated by groups who work across police force boundaries and often international borders.”
Leppard added: “These threats are most effectively dealt with when industry, police forces and police authorities act in concert across the country. Good examples of this are the industry-funded dedicated credit card and insurance fraud police teams that operate in the City of London.”
The City of London Police Commissioner asserted that the Government and the police service have recognised the increasing focus on fraud through the creation of an Economic Crime Command within the new National Crime Agency and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (which itself is hosted by the City of London Police).
“Due to the fact that these criminals often operate across county and international boundaries,” suggested Leppard, “the police service’s response to fraud is being reviewed with crime recording arrangements moving onto a national framework during the year and proposals for a specialist fraud policing team to target the organised crime gangs being considered by the Home Office and the police service.”
Leppard also said that the police service continues to work with the industry to prevent and detect retail crime so that the safety of workers in the sector is improved and the financial losses incurred are reduced.
“When newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners begin their work later this year, collaborative work across police forces will be progressed under the Strategic Policing Requirement which will see local arrangements also reflecting national threats,” he stressed. “I encourage retailers to continue to come forward and report crime so that we have a better understanding of how crime affects them and can best allocate our available resources.”