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It comes as the ACS’s 2023 Crime Report showed theft across the sector had reached record levels

The UK convenience sector is crying out for a ‘most wanted’ list in a bid to help ward off prolific shoplifters reoffending in their stores. 

The impassioned plea comes from the Association of Convenience Stores which found theft across the sector had reached record highs, with 1.1 million incidents reported over the past year, and 63% of them being committed by repeat offenders, according to its 2023 Crime Report published today.

As part of new plans to tackle the escalating problem, addressed to government and police, the trade body said introducing a ‘most wanted’ list of shop thieves in each police force area would help to ban offenders from retail areas or have them referred to rehabilitation programmes.

Its report found the most commonly stolen items were meat, alcohol and confectionery, which are typically high in value so they can be sold on by those with a drug or alcohol addiction, or as part of wider organised crime groups, according to ACS. 

It also showed almost 80% of retailers believe the cost of living crisis has led to an increase in theft.

“The levels of theft that retailers are experiencing on a daily basis are unprecedented,” said ACS CEO James Lowman. “Repeat offenders, known to the community and known to the police, are stealing without fear of reproach.

”The cost of living crisis has increased the level of theft but this isn’t driven by people falling on hard times turning to crime, it’s organised criminal gangs and addicts stealing to fund their drug or alcohol problems. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Official crime figures barely scratch the surface of the problems that retailers are facing. The government, police and crime commissioners, and local forces need to take urgent action to stop this national crimewave in its tracks and send a clear message that repeat offenders will be dealt with properly.”

The ACS’s five-point plan also suggested reviewing the impact of new legislation that makes attacking a public-facing worker an aggravated offence; investing in rehabilitation programmes for offenders to break the cycle of offending and ineffective punishment; encouraging local forces to use the tools available to them to deal with anti-social behaviour; and incentivising investment in crime prevention measures.

Retailer Fiona Malone, based in Tenby, Wales, said: “Many of the people stealing from my shop are known to the community and the police. We need to do a better job at tackling these offenders and bringing them to justice. Unfortunately, shop thieves know the police rarely take notice of anything stolen under £50 in value.”