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'Need not greed' is fuelling shoplifting.

Byline: Peter McCusker

HARD-PRESSED retailers in the North East are being hit by a big rise in shoplifting as the recession is forcing people to steal for "need, not greed".

The region's retail crime partnership, a coalition of store firm bosses and police, has told The Journal that the cost of the surge in shoplifting to the region's businesses will total more than pounds 50m in the coming year.

It has revealed that shoplifting rose by 22% in September to December 2008 across Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland Police areas compared with the same period in 2007. In total, 6,627 shoplifting incidents were recorded by police in the final four months of 2008 in the North East, compared with 5,454 in 2007.

North East Retail Crime Partnership (NERCP) manager Dawn Robinson said: "The credit crunch is already bad news for retailers but it now looks like the recession could also be fuelling a rise in shop crime.

"Up until September last year, when the economic downturn started to bite, shop theft had been steadily falling in the North East. Now this trend has reversed."

She said anecdotal evidence from retail members of the NERCP suggested it was "not just greed, but need" which was now driving some people to steal from shops.

Asda's regional security manager, Mike Cannon, responsible for security for the national retailer's 22 North East stores said: "We are noticing increasing arrests for shoplifting in each of our stores. There is certainly an increase in non-professional thefts. People cannot afford to buy certain items - many of these are day-to-day items - and are stealing them instead. Products being targeted include meat and coffee.

"There certainly seems to be a trend whereby some people are now stealing for need, not greed."

Small businesses lose an average of pounds 13,500 each because of crime every year, while more than two-thirds of businesses are victims of crime, according to a recent Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) survey.

FSB chairman for the North East Colin Stratton said: "Crime against businesses is a very serious issue, as the figures show. The FSB is also concerned that the figures are much higher, as our survey indicates, and that only around 45% of firms that experienced crime actually reported it and the majority were not aware of the local crime reduction methods."

A British Retail Consortium spokesman said: "Historically shoplifting rises during a recession and, while we do not have up-to-date figures on shop thefts, our anecdotal evidence suggests this is rising once more."

NERCP, which says shoplifting costs the region's retailers pounds 50m a year, is hosting a retail crime conference at the Lancastrian Suite in Gateshead on April 8. The conference is free and will feature advice and tips on tackling shop crime.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2009
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