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Shoplifting offences in England and Wales rise to highest level in 20 years

Shoplifting offences in England and Wales have soared to the highest level in 20 years.

Some 402,482 offences were recorded by police in the year to September 2023 - the first time it risen above pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That is up by almost a third (32%) on the previous 12 months, when 304,459 offences were recorded.

The previous peak of 382,643 was recorded in the year to March 2018.

The ONS found there was a "mixed picture of crime" but pointed to a "notable increase in some theft offences, including shoplifting".

There was also a rise in the thefts of motor vehicles, the data showed.

It follows concerns by major retailers over the rising cost of theft.

Co-op's food business lost £33m in just six months last year as shoplifting cases surged, with executives warning how shop looting perpetuated by prolific offenders and organised criminal gangs "is becoming genuinely one of the most significant issues facing UK communities".

The government unveiled an "action plan to tackle shoplifting" in October after facing pressure to deal with increased thefts, blamed on the cost of living crisis.

But policing minister Chris Philp came under fire earlier this year after telling Sky News the cost of living crisis is "no excuse" for a rise in shoplifting as the UK's benefits system is "very generous".

In a separate ONS survey entitled Business Insights and Conditions, which analyses the impact of economic challenges on UK firms, 29% of trading businesses said their turnover had decreased in December 2023 compared with a month earlier.

Meanwhile, 17% said they expect to raise the prices of goods or services they sell in February this year - with almost a quarter blaming labour costs.

Recorded crime may not reflect true figures

The overall number of crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in the 12 months up to last September stands at 6.7 million, the ONS said - just up from 6.6 million the previous year.

However, the separate ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales suggested people aged 16 or over had fallen prey to 8.5 million offences in the year up to September 2023.

Police recorded crime data showed robberies were up by 12% to 79,091 offences, compared with 70,792 in the year ending September 2022.

Homicides decreased by 9% from 651 to 591 over the same timeframe.

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Some 191,186 sexual offences were recorded by police, a 3% drop from the previous 12 months, when the figure stood at 198,106.

However, it is 17% higher than the 163,326 offences recorded in 2019-20, ahead of the pandemic.

An improvement in police recording offences, together with more victims coming forward and changes in data to include new offences have made "substantial contributions to rises in recorded crime", the ONS said.