Shoplifting or, to give it its correct title, theft or stealing, is big business, a major crime spree nationally with 402,482 shoplifting offences recorded by police in England and Wales in the 12 months up to September 2023. The figures illustrate the increasing problem many retailers face with theft from their shops, with the British Retail Consortium estimating that retail crime cost businesses £1.7bn in 2024.
The people who end up carrying the cost of this growing crime spree are the ordinary law abiding shoppers like you and me.
The multi million pound companies aren’t the real victims, we are, because, given a choice between reducing their profits or increasing their prices, we are the ones who end up footing the bill through the increase of our weekly shopping. It’s in our best interest these thieves are caught or at least deterred, so it makes sense to do what we can to help tackle the problem. If you see it, report it, and don’t just turn away and pretend it’s none of your business, because it’s everyone’s business. It’s not about going vigilante and wrestling people to the ground, but it is about reporting it to a member of staff or a member of the onsite security team.
When it comes to the powers of the security staff, they have the right to stop and speak to you, but what they can’t do is stop and search you or your belongings without your consent for them to do so. The only people with the power and authority to stop and search you are the Police, if they feel they have reasonable cause to do so. It’s one thing to help the staff, but it is something totally different to be intimidated or bullied by a person in a uniform who tries to imply, or lies by stating they have the power and authority to search your shopping bags or buggies if you just happen to be a busy full time mother trying to get her shopping done. The security staff can ask, and you are within your right to refuse, and you are under no obligation to prove to anyone, other than the police, you have done nothing wrong, and refusing to let a shop security guard search you or your possessions is not a crime, it’s your right to do so. However, action comes with consequences; if you do refuse, you may be asked to leave the store, which isn’t a real hardship if you are already on the way out, but they may also ask you to do your shopping elsewhere. At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make. If you are not a thief you have nothing to worry about, but don’t allow anyone to try and intimidate you by using your sense as a way of taking away your right to politely, but firmly say no.
Cllr Phillip Hawkins