Concern over surge in South Yorkshire shoplifting cases as retailers call for action

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Retailers concerned after surge in shoplifting across Sheffield revealed, representing only 'a fraction of cases'

Shopkeepers have called for action after a surge in shoplifting cases, with a rise of nearly a third in South Yorkshire.

It comes following a number of high profile prosecutions in Sheffield as South Yorkshire Police take action over cases in the city.

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Office for National Statistics figures show about 11,400 shoplifting offences were recorded by South Yorkshire Police in the year to June – up from 8,596 in 2022. That represents a rise of just under 33 per cent.

It comes as the Association of Convenience Stores said the new data only represents "a fraction" of the "unprecedented" level of theft retailers are facing.

South Yorkshire Police have revealed a number of high profile prosecutions for shoplifting this year, including a a thief who stole over £200 of meat in a spate of raids at Aldi on Infirmary Road who was caught and taken to court last month. And in June, a man was banned from entering numerous supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsburys and Co-op across the Ecclesfield, Chapeltown and High Green areas of the city, and jailed for eight weeks, after pleading guilty to multiple occurrences of theft from a shop, and using threatening, abusive, insulting words and behaviour to those who challenged him.

It follows trends across England and Wales where reports of shoplifting increased 25%, from 293,000 offences in 2021-22 to 365,200 last year.

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James Lowman, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive, said: "Convenience retailers are facing unprecedented levels of theft against their businesses at the hands of prolific offenders who are targeting stores repeatedly without fear of reproach."

He added: "These incidents take a huge toll on retailers and their colleagues, so it’s crucial that every incident reported to the police gets investigated."

He said the ONS figures show a rise in reported shoplifting to police, but only represent "a fraction" of what is happening.

"The vast majority of theft still goes unreported, as retailers are frustrated at the lack of response and follow up activity from their local police forces," he added.

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Overall theft offences have increased 10 per cent from the previous year, with 1.7 million crimes recorded in the year to June.

The ONS said this rise was predominantly the result of increases in theft offences against businesses, such as shoplifting.

In South Yorkshire, police recorded about 49,900 theft offences in 2022-23. It was a rise from 45,500 the year before.

Paddy Lillis, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers general secretary, added: "Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers."

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He said: "Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers."

The overall number of crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in the year to June 2023 stood at 6.7 million, compared with 6.5 million in the previous 12 months.

The latest increase across has mainly been driven by the increase in shoplifting, together with a jump in fraud offences against businesses – more of which is being reported due to action by industry bodies, the ONS added.

South Yorkshire Police recorded 160,700 total crimes in the year to June – up from 154,200 in 2021-22.