Britain's shop theft epidemic: The shocking stats that expose our justice system is FAILING

Two police officers

A crime survey found 61 per cent of retailers rated police response to incidents as “poor or very poor"

Hannah Ross

By Hannah Ross

Published: 05/06/2024

- 11:02

Updated: 05/06/2024

- 12:10

A crime survey report found only 8 per cent of reported incidents of violence and abuse to retail staff were prosecuted from 2022-23

A recent crime survey found a massive increase in violence and abuse in the retail industry alongside a lack of confidence in police support and a low number of prosecutions.

Incidents of customer theft doubled from 2022 to 2023 rising to 16.7 million cases. Additionally, just under half a million (475,000) violent incidents were recorded.

A 2024 Crime Survey report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found only 8 per cent (38,000) of incidents of violence and abuse reported to the police by retailers were prosecuted with 19,000 resulting in convictions.

Abuse of retail staff can take many forms ranging from racial or sexual abuse to violence resulting in physical injuries.

BRC Report

The results of the British British Retail Consortium survey about crime in the retail industry


Only 36 per cent of incidents of violence and abuse are reported to the police as there is a belief that nothing will happen if it is reported.

The other main reasons for not reporting are a lack of staff at the time of the incident and difficulties with the reporting system.

Overall, 61 per cent of retailers rated police response to incidents as “poor or very poor,” up from 44 per cent last year.

Only 6 per cent of retailers said the response from the police was “good” and 32 per cent said it was “fair.”

BRC Survey

This graph shows the main reason retailers do not report crime to the police is because they believe nothing will come of reporting


The crime survey on the retail industry covered the period from September 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023, and was published in February this year.

Graham Wynn, Assistant Director of Regulatory Affairs at the BRC, told GB News: “Shoplifting poses a huge issue to businesses and communities across the country, and inadequate police action has given criminals a free rein to steal goods.

“Our latest crime survey showed losses to theft doubled in the last year to £1.8bn, and retailers had to spend a further £1.2bn on anti-crime measures.

“Not only has the number of thefts increased, but thieves are becoming bolder, more aggressive, and more frequently armed with weapons.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak is shown CCTV footage of shop lifters at Horsham police station in April 2024


“We call on the police and the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners to get tough on retail crime and ensure tackling this issue is a high priority in future local policing plans.”

Retail theft and abuse greatly affect small businesses that experience a loss of revenue, increased expenses and potential legal costs.

Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told GB News: “Over a quarter of small businesses that have been victims of traditional forms of crime have experienced threatening behaviour or assault."

Mackenzie explained that the General Election paused legalisation that would have made violence against retail workers a specific offence, so the next Government will need to make this important change.

BRC Crime Survey

The number of people who think the police do a "good" or "excellent" job at responding to retail crime has dropped since 2012-13


She continued: "There’s no doubt that the court system is struggling to cope as it is, but crimes against people running or working in businesses have to be treated seriously, due to the distress caused."

The FSB has called for the next Government to introduce a single portal allowing businesses to complain and other victims to submit statements and evidence such as CCTV footage directly to the police.

The data outlined above was taken before the Retail Crime Action Plan was launched by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) therefore, any positive impact from that plan is not picked up in this survey.

In October 2023, the government endorsed a plan to help police crackdown on theft and violence toward staff in retail.

Morrisons Daily

The FSB has called for the Government to introduce a single portal allowing businesses to complain and other victims to submit statements and evidence such as CCTV footage directly to the police



Under the plan, the police committed to attending more crime scenes and using facial recognition to target offenders.

In February 2024, the NPCC announced that the plan is showing early signs of progress in police response rates.

In a dip sample of 31 police forces in December 2023, police attended 60 per cent of over 1,500 cases where violence was used.

Nevertheless, this means around 600 incidents of violence against retail staff in this period were left unprosecuted and without any police presence.

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