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Police officers fear new pilot scheme for shops will make it ‘too easy’ to record crimes

Police officers fear new pilot scheme for shops to report crimes will make it ‘too easy’ to record offences

  • Sussex police has launched a pilot scheme for shops to report crime more easily 
  • But some officers fear it could lead to a huge spike in crime reports
  • The pilot scheme will see 20 Co-op stores linked to Sussex police’s crime database 

Police officers have voiced concerns a new pilot scheme for shops to report crimes will make it ‘too easy’ to record offences, a police commissioner has revealed.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, has launched a pilot programme to allow shops to report crimes more easily after discovering as few as eight per cent of offences in stores are reported to police.

A survey of more than 100 businesses revealed the shocking number of unreported crimes including thefts, violence and public order incidents.

But she has told how the scheme has been greeted with scepticism by some officers because it could lead to a huge spike in crime reports.

She added that it probably wouldn’t make her popular with ‘senior officers’.

Shopkeeper Pratibha Paleja, 63, told how she had been repeatedly assaulted by customers

‘There are concerns among some officers that if we make it really easy for shops and retail outlets to report crime then the police have to deal with that,’ the commissioner said.

‘If you see a massive increase, bearing in mind they are dealing with pre-covid levels of crime and are policing the lockdown regulations, any increase elsewhere in recorded crime means they have to deal with it and can’t ignore the evidence.

‘This is happening across the country but only eight per cent of the crime is being reported. Lockdown has made shopping a lot more stressful and with the shops re-opening we need to be careful.

‘A lot of the assaults and threats are happening when a customer is challenged for carrying out a theft.

‘We need to know what the volume of this crime is and what’s happening out there. It’s a bit like domestic abuse and knife crime which we campaigned for people to report.

‘Initially there were concerns when there was a huge increase in the recording of the crime but then we understand it better.

‘If someone has been terrified and threatened by a thief who is only stealing a pack of biscuits, it’s still very important.

‘It’s not the value of the goods – we need this conversation with all our forces that they need to re-assess the way we deal with this.

‘And it can be linked to organised crime, drug abuse, and it can be a gateway to more serious crime. It probably won’t make me popular with senior officers up and down the country

The pilot scheme will see 20 Co-op stores linked to Sussex police’s crime reporting database through the National Business Crime Solution, meaning a dedicated team of officers receive reports as they are made by shop workers.

It comes as research published last month by trade union USDAW revealed 57 per cent of shop staff said they had been threatened by a customer over the last six months while 76 per cent said abuse was worse than normal during the pandemic.

Ms Bourne, the national lead on retails crime, also warned the opening of shops next week could see shopkeepers and retail staff facing an unprecedented crime wave in the run up to Christmas.

She has launched a campaign to raise awareness among shoppers to be considerate of shop workers.

Shopkeeper Pratibha Paleja, 63, from Hastings, told how she had been repeatedly assaulted by customers and those she caught stealing from her corner shop.

‘I’ve had my wrist broken, I’ve been abused. Shoplifters, druggies, drunks, it’s been a problem for some time and it isn’t getting any better,’ Mrs Paleja added.

‘I’ve phoned the police after catching people stealing and they just refuse to come and say let the thieves go. It needs to change.’

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