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Chief Executive’s Blog: Positive Steps from PCCs on Retail Crime

Chief Executive’s Blog: Positive Steps from PCCs on Retail Crime

Earlier this week I attended the launch of Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber’s Retail Crime Strategy, and it was good to see some of our members there as well as senior police officers, other businesses and the media.

The first piece of good news is that such a strategy now exists. A few years ago we audited the plans of all PCC’s in England and Wales and only a handful included any reference to business crime. That’s changed, and most PCCs now include business crime in their overall strategies and a growing number are, like Matthew, giving retail crime a greater focus. I think this has been driven from two directions: the Home Secretary wrote to PCCs and chief constables last Autumn setting an expectation for them to focus on shop theft and other crimes that had over time been given a lower priority. We and other industry groups helped amplify this message in the media and in our communications with PCCs. Secondly, the policing community will have been hearing more about retail crime from the ground up: retailers talking to them and police officers, and members of the public feeling less safe because the services local to them are being blighted by increasingly brazen shop thieves, and more of the people they know in the community are being attacked while doing their job.

The message has got through, but that’s a pretty small first step. The development of strategies like Matthew Barber’s in the Thames Valley is the next important milestone, and the commitment of the police officers I met this week is another pre-requisite of addressing this problem. But fundamentally this isn’t about strategy documents or me going on BBC Breakfast, it’s about every day policing decisions. A key element of the strategy is making it quick and easy for crimes to be reported – at the moment the time it takes to report crime isn’t justified the by perceived likelihood of the crime being investigated and the offender pursued and ultimately punished. The Disc system being rolled out in the Thames Valley aims to break that cycle, and there are other systems being implemented around the country.

The final link in the chain is the courts system. If Matthew and PCCs and chief constables around the country are successful in increasing the amount of retail crime being reported, and investigating those crimes, retailers will still be left high and dry if the prolific repeat offenders identified aren’t dealt with effectively. That might mean prison sentences, it might mean Community Behaviour Orders, it might mean rehabilitation programmes. If offenders don’t receive effective penalties, it’s doubly harmful: those individuals don’t get the punishment and / or support they need, and retailers will simply stop reporting crimes because once again the effort and cost won’t have been justified by the outcome.

We’ve got a choice now: we either commit to pro-active strategies like Matthew and many other PCCs and police forces are implementing to focus on breaking the cycle and reducing crime, or we focus only on describing the problem and keep going round the same cycle time and again. The first option is hard work, but it can be done – look at the work led by Sussex PCC Katy Bourne which has taken many prolific repeat offenders out of circulation.  I feel energised by the commitment I saw in the room in Reading this week, but also under no illusions about the effort required to change the awful reality that too many retailers are dealing with.

This entry was posted by Anna onFri, 26/01/2024 - 16:23
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