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Shoplifting rises sharply after thefts under PS200 'not investigated by cops'.

Byline: ANNIE GOUK News Reporter

SHOPLIFTING has risen sharply in parts of the West Midlands in the last year, with experts warning the rise is partly due to police not pursuing small-scale thefts.

There were 19,655 shoplifting offences recorded by police across the region in the 12 months to September 2017.

That's just a slight increase from the 19,542 crimes recorded the year before - but in some areas the rise was much sharper.

In Sandwell, for example, the number of shoplifting offences recorded by police rose from 1,878 in the 12 months to September 2016 to 2,207 a year later - an increase of 18 per cent.

Similarly, in Solihull instances of these crimes rose by 8 per cent, from 1,355 offences in 2015-16 to 1,467 in 2016-17.

The increase seen in parts of the West Midlands reflects a sharp rise in shoplifting seen across the country as a whole.

In the last year, the number of shoplifting offences recorded by police rose by 10 per centfrom 347,164 crimes to 380,427 across England and Wales.

Retailers have warned that this increase in shoplifting is being fuelled partly by police forces not investigating the theft of items worth less than PS200.

The threshold was introduced in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and allows anyone stealing goods costing less than PS200 to plead guilty by post.

If they don't, they could face the magistrates' court and potentially face a fine or up to a year in prison.

James Lowman, the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: "The monetary threshold for police-led prosecutions to deal with shop theft offences, which can be PS100 or PS200 in some areas, is supposed to deal with first-time offenders and isolated offences.

"We remain concerned that this system is not effective in deterring criminals, and does not adequately recognise repeat offenders and offences where other crimes are being committed by the same person.

"The increase in shop theft offences being recorded by the police will come as no surprise to convenience retailers who have to deal with theft as a regular occurrence in their business.

"Our research suggests that the true number of shop theft incidents occurring in the convenience sector alone over the last year has risen to over 950,000.

"This is especially concerning as shop theft often leads to other crimes - it is the number one cause of violence and abuse in stores, and those committing shop theft offences are often doing so to fund a drug or alcohol addiction. We need fresh thinking from Government and the police because when shop theft is not tackled properly it has implications for the wider society."

However, the government has said that the monetary threshold put on shoplifting investigations does not diminish the seriousness of these crimes.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Government recognises shoplifting causes disruption to businesses and damage to communities and consumers.

"It is not a victimless crime. We are clear that all crimes reported to the police should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences."

While Sandwell and Solihull saw the biggest increase in shoplifting offences last year, Wolverhampton still has the highest rate of these types of crime in the region.

The area saw shoplifting stay at similar levels with 2,263 offences in the last year - 88 shoplifting crimes for every 10,000 people living there.

That's much higher than the national average. Across England and Wales, there were 65 shoplifting offences recorded for every 10,000 people.
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Publication:Solihull News (Solihull, Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 23, 2018
Words:601
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