Chief Executive's Blog: Crimes Reported vs Crimes Committed

The Office for National Statistics recently published new figures on different types of crime in England and Wales, including a range of offences that sometimes have as their victims convenience store retailers and their staff. The figure that got the most attention (in our sector at least) was the small decline in reported shop theft. It’s well worth exploring this statistic and looking at what it actually tells us.

These figures contradict the information that we collect for our annual Crime Report which, combined with constant feedback from retailers, suggests that theft is not only getting worse, it’s also feeding more serious crime and becoming more organised as groups of criminals are stealing to sell products on.  Both ACS and the ONS can be right, though, because the gap between the two is non-reported crime. My contention is not just that there are many non-reported incidents of shop theft, but that a growing proportion of thefts are going unreported. Here’s why ...

Since the creation of democratically elected Police & Crime Commissioners, policing priorities have been set by them, in consultation with the general public and expert stakeholders, at a local level (you can find details of your PCC at . That’s meant that high profile crimes that concern the electorate, like burglary and sexual violence, have been prioritised. Then, as policing numbers and funding have fallen, harder decisions have had to be made, and that’s included explicitly de-prioritising crimes including shop theft under a value threshold. The cherry on top is that because PCCs are elected and accountable (great principles of course) they tell everyone when they decide not to respond to shop theft, thus giving assurance to those who might want to steal from us that they have a free hand to do so. 

What’s more, reports of crime don’t just go into ONS reports, they get recorded and linked to the premises, and can be used as grounds to review an alcohol licence, to indicate that the store is a risk because of high levels of crime. So, if you’re a retailer who has detected theft in their store, why would you report to a police force which have already said their policy is not to respond, and when it could actually backfire on your business?

It’s not surprising that within minutes of putting out our response to the ONS figures, we heard from retailers with stories of being fobbed off after calling the police to report thefts. But, if retailers stop reporting crimes when they take place, there’s a danger that forces will see theft as even less of a priority over time when drawing up their future plans. I know it’s a frustrating process trying to get through to the police to report thefts, especially when you’re just given a crime number or screened out altogether, but only by reporting every time can we ensure that the police know the true extent of thefts committed against our sector.

That leads me on to a quick plug: join us at our Crime Seminar on 26th March, which will feature the launch of our latest Crime Report. One thing we’ve learned from our members’ battles on crime is that it’s a challenge best tackled together, and armed with information that tells the full story about its impact on the people and businesses in our sector.

This entry was posted by Chris on Wed, 30/01/2019 - 12:11