‘I want shop workers to feel properly protected’ says Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne

People need to stop seeing shoplifting as an inevitable cost of running a store, the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner has said.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 3:02 pm

Speaking during a meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, Katy Bourne urged shops to report incidents – particularly if there was any violence involved – and called on the Criminal Justice System to take such crimes seriously.

Calling violence against shop workers ‘absolutely intolerable’, she added: “Where shop workers are assaulted and abused, if that offender comes to court they need the full weight of the law handed down to them.

“It’s really giving businesses the confidence the police will respond, giving the police confidence that businesses will report, and that the justice system is there to deliver the appropriate sanctions when the time comes.

“More than anybody I want shop workers to feel properly protected by the police.

“We need to see a culture change that refuses to accept that shoplifting is one of those inevitable costs of operational activity within a store.

“It shoudn’t be. Theft is a crime and crime needs to be dealt with appropriately.”

A report to the panel showed that business crime rose by 8 per cent in 2019/20, with an extra 1,510 incidents recorded.

Theft and handling stolen goods rose by 1,166 cases to 13,365, while burglary rose by 300 cases to 2,398 throughout the year.

While violent crime dropped by 17 cases, there will still 330 such crimes reported.

Brighton & Hove recorded the most business crimes in Sussex, with 4,696 cases in 2019/20 – a rise of 568 – followed by Arun with 1,862 (up 257), Adur and Worthing with 1,819 (up 48) and Crawley with 1,703 (a drop of 37).

In Horsham, the figures rose to 1,241 (up 191), in Chichester they rose to 1,415 (up 100), in Eastbourne they dropped to 1,417 cases (down 51) and  in Hastings they rose to 1,473 (up 221).

The biggest decrease was seen in Mid Sussex, with 1,084 cases – a drop of 208.

District councillor Norman Webster praised the work of Inspector Darren Taylor and his team in bringing about the change.

Mrs Bourne was keen to ‘dispel a few myths’ about how the police responded to calls about shoplifting – such as the rumour that officers would not attend if the loss was less than £200.

She said this was simply not true.

But it’s a message that some retailers don’t seem to be getting.

One shop was listed as having reported six crimes in three months – meaning police thought there was not much of a problem – but, when spoken to, the owner said it was more like six crimes per day.

Problems such as this have led to Sussex Police developing a Business Crime Strategy – one of the first of its kind in England and Wales – to work with firms to improve confidence, prevent crime and reduce the harm caused to businesses by crime.

A working group held its first meeting in August.