Major UK retail chains have become so concerned about increased theft that they have offered employees body cameras to deter crime.
“Recently, we’ve had a huge increase in shoplifting,” Benedict Selvaratnam, owner of the Fresh Market at Court in Croydon, London, told Fox News Digital. “Where it used to be three to five incidents a week, now we’re suffering three to 10 a day. It’s way out of control.”
Fashion chain Primark has joined supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s in equipping employees with body cameras and adding security guards and CCTV cameras and systems.
The increased measures come as businesses such as Target, Foot Locker and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all warned that their profits are being pressured by lost stock due to theft. Department store chain John Lewis said earlier this month shoplifting had reached “epidemic” levels in Britain.
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George Weston, chief executive of Primark, which owns Associated British Foods, recently announced the new measures, stressing that while the police and prosecution services are “doing more” to tackle a “steadily worsening problem”, the efforts are “not enough . Yet.”
Sainsbury’s first made headlines for its extra security measures in February 2020 at some locations in a pilot scheme amid calls from business owners to crack down on crime, the Evening Standard reported.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said “the safety of our colleagues and customers remains our highest priority.”
“We were the first retailer to introduce the colleague–cameras were worn in 2018 to protect our team and colleagues are now wearing cameras in every Sainsbury’s store,” the spokesperson explained. “We have increased the number of security officers in our stores this year and have used measures to prevent criminal activity such as our detectives in our stores. and security doors.
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“Preventing and reducing crime in our stores will support our ongoing efforts to keep prices low for customers,” added the spokesman, noting that the company plans to complete the rollout of body cameras in Argos stores this year.
Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy in an article about the decision earlier this month to significantly boost store security he insisted stores “cannot go on like this”.
“After a long campaign by retailers and the [Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers] last year, the government made assaulting shop workers an aggravating factor in sentencing, meaning offenders should face longer sentences,” he wrote. “Judges should make use of this power.
“But we need to go further, like in Scotland, and make abuse or violence against retail workers an offence,” he added. He was referring to the Scottish Workers’ Protection Act 2021, which made it a criminal offense to assault, threaten or abuse retail workers.
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Murphy called for greater cooperation between businesses to share information and work with police, saying: “We’re only going to be able to stop these things if we work together.”
Crime fell during the pandemic, but has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. In London, the number of reported incidents of theft, defined as the unlawful taking of property without violence or intimidation, has largely returned to the same rate. About 22,595 cases were reported in August 2023.
Selvaratnam explained that the lack of authorities on the streets at night appears to have emboldened would-be criminals and led to a “massive increase in recent months”.
He argued that the lack of punishment for petty offenses also contributed to the increase in criminal activity.
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“They are well aware that the police are not going to come out for any kind of theft under £50 (about $65). So they feel very comfortable going to that price, knowing that it’s probably not going to be a police response. That is why they keep doing it,” argued Selvaratnam.
The Daily Telegraph reported in August that Britain’s Ministry of Justice would publish a new draft code of practice that would suggest police officers give caution to offenders of “low-level” crime, which includes burglary and shoplifting, in a bid to help ease it. the huge backlog of cases in the criminal courts.
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“The current system for these punishments has become unwieldy and has led to inconsistencies in their use,” said British Prisons, Probation and Probation Secretary Damian Hinds, who noted the system would require a thorough overhaul.
“This simplified system will ensure that victims see justice done, better stamp out low-level crime at the outset and guarantee that the most serious offenders always face the full glare of the courtroom,” he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.