LONDON, UK – Shoplifting cases in the UK have reached a five-year high, prompting concerns of a “crime epidemic” as organized criminal groups appear to be escaping consequences. Analysis of Home Office data by the Liberal Democrats revealed that over 200,000 reports of shoplifting went unsolved in the year ending July 2023, averaging 560 cases a day.
The research also found that the number of unsolved shoplifting cases has increased by a third compared to the previous year. In addition, separate research from the Labour Party indicated that only one in 200 crimes was solved by police over the last 12 months. This surge in shoplifting cases has led retail bosses to claim that the offense has been effectively decriminalized.
The resistance from police chiefs to respond to every report, stating that it is not “realistic,” has led some shop owners to turn to private security instead. The Liberal Democrats criticized the government for failing to address the issue, pointing out that 4,000 community support officers had been taken off the beat since 2015.
Furthermore, just 15 percent of shoplifting cases in the last year resulted in a suspect being charged or summoned, down from 19 percent in 2019. There is a growing concern that organized criminal gangs are taking advantage of this situation while leaving shopkeepers vulnerable.
Moreover, measures announced by the policing minister, such as a new police team with £30,000 of government funding to crack down on shoplifting, have been criticized as insufficient by the Liberal Democrats. Similarly, the suggestion of citizens performing arrests on thieves at the Conservative Party conference has caused controversy. The Shadow Home Secretary from the Labour Party highlighted that thefts of under £200 were not being investigated, leading to a green light for shoplifting.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.