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Minister Instructs Police to Investigate Every Shoplifting Incident

Police must probe every single incident of shoplifting even if the goods fall below £200, the policing minister has said.

Chris Philp told the Telegraph that forces must employ a “zero-tolerance” approach to theft where there is CCTV evidence, including those of lower values.

Police chiefs have been accused of effectively decriminalising thefts worth less than £200 since changes to the law meant they were handled with a fine by post.

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Figures show that the police fail to attend more than two thirds of serious retail crimes, even though shoplifting costs businesses almost £1 billion a year.

Asked by newspaper how police should respond to thefts from shops of goods worth under the £200 benchmark, Mr. Philp said: “The law says that this is still a criminal offence and police should be enforcing it comprehensively.

“Shoplifting affects businesses up and down the country, large and small alike, and often entails violence or threats to retail workers.

“It should not be tolerated at any level. I expect a zero-tolerance approach to this criminality.”

The minister added he would encourage security staff to intervene to prevent shoplifting where safe, pointing out, “They are legally entitled to do so as made clear in the legislation.”

Violence Risk

Mr. Philp previously told Parliament that unless stringent action is taken against petty shop theft, British cities could end up like San Francisco, where shops were forced to close because of an escalation in violent shoplifting.

“We have seen that elsewhere in the world—I think in particular about San Francisco, as well as other American cities—where both the police and store security guards appear not to intervene and, as a consequence, stores are raided and stolen from on a large scale multiple times a day,” he told MPs in June.

“In San Francisco, a number of shops have had to close down completely because shoplifting has become so rampant and out of control. For all those reasons, it needs to be taken extremely seriously. There is a very compelling case for doing that.”

Mr. Philp also revealed that he will meet retail bosses and police leaders later this month to discuss what more can be done to beat shoplifting.

“My expectation is that all shoplifting should be followed up where there is evidence, such as CCTV footage,” he told the Telegraph.

“Otherwise, we risk escalation as we have seen in some U.S. cities.

“From next April, every police force is receiving funding for anti-social behaviour hotspot patrols, which I would generally expect to include town centre retail areas.”

A number of Police Scotland officers are seen on June 4, 2016. (Andrew Milligan/PA)
A number of Police Scotland officers are seen on June 4, 2016. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Assaults Rise

The policing minister’s intervention comes after Tesco Chief Executive Ken Murphy said that every store worker would be offered a body camera following an increase in violent attacks on them.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr. Murphy revealed physical assaults against the supermarket chain’s staff had risen by a third in a year.

He said Tesco has invested £44 million in four years on security measures including door access systems, protection screens and digital radios, as well as the cameras, but called for more to be done against offenders.

Meanwhile, Luke Johnson, the chairman of Gail’s Bakery, demanded that shoplifting be treated as a “proper crime.”

He told Times Radio: “This trend towards widespread, really widespread aggression, abuse and shoplifting is a new and scary phenomenon.

“I do think actually this is where we need to treat shoplifting as shop theft and see it as a proper crime and prosecute it.

“If the authorities were more active in that, then I think that would make a difference because I think it would discourage this sort of anti-social behaviour.”

The British Retail Consortium said that the police rarely turn up when incidents are reported.

Last week, Home Secretary Su

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