Shoplifting soars to highest level in 20 years

Shoplifting offences recorded by police in England and Wales have risen to the highest level since current records began 20 years ago, according to official statistics.

More than 402,000 offences were recorded in the year to September 2023, up from 304,459 in the previous 12 months, data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows on Thursday.

It is the first time since current records began in 2002 that the number recorded by police has risen higher than 400,000. The previous peak of 382,643 was recorded in the year to March 2018.

The stark figures come as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite across the country.

A survey published earlier this month found eight in 10 people (84 per cent) expect this January to be the toughest yet financially due to rising costs and Christmas spending. The study, by Nationwide, also found energy costs and added debt were factors affecting people’s finances.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Shop price Inflation - or rising prices -  was at 4.3 per cent for the year to December 2023, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index.

Although food inflation was down from 7.7 per cent in November millions continue to feel the pinch of high food costs.

In December last year, the prices of everyday food items such as flour, rice, fruit, coffee and mineral water increased, while the price eggs, sugar and yoghurt slightly decreased.

Major retailers have raised concerns about the rising cost of theft, with supermarket Co-op losing £33m in six months last year as shoplifting cases surged.

In October last year, the government launched an "action plan to tackle shoplifting" after increased pressure from businesses, and Downing Street said today that ministers were looking at ways to implement these plans.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We’d always want to do more to combat shoplifting.

“I think there is work that has been done, particularly with private companies, about how we can go further to tackle this issue.”

The overall number of crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in the year to September 2023 stood at 6.7 million, up slightly from 6.6 million in the previous year and higher than 6.1 million in the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

Police also recorded theft has increased by 9% (to 1.8 million offences) compared with the year ending September 2022. This increase can be explained by the significant rise in shoplifting, the ONS said.

The release includes some data that reflects changes in how crimes are logged by police forces. Reforms of so-called Home Office counting rules, which concerns the logging of incidents, were rolled out across England and Wales from June 2023.

Improvement in the recording of offences by police, together with more victims reporting crime, changes in the data to include new offences, plus “genuine increases” in some kinds of crime, have “each made substantial contributions to rises in recorded crime over recent years,” the ONS said.

The figures are likely to reflect improvements in police recording practices and increased reporting by victims, which means they “do not provide a reliable measure of trends in these types of crime”, the ONS added – though they “do provide a good measure of the crime-related demand on the police”.

Additional reporting by PA