Official crime statistics show that there were 33 000 shoplifting offences recorded in March, 31% more than last year.
This is in line with crime data reported by the Co-op, which reported a 35% increase year on year. In the six months to June, the group recorded 1000 incidents of crime every day across all its outlets.
The seriousness of these retail offences also seem to be getting worse. A higher proportion of crimes involve violence and some have involved gangs entering shops and looting.
This is reflective of an increase in retail crime more broadly. The 2022 crime report by the British Retail Consortium reported a more than doubling of violent crimes and abusive behaviour towards staff in 2020-21 compared to 2019-22.
Explaining the increase in retail crime
There are three possible explanations for the above crime trends:
Firstly the cost of living crisis will explain some of the increase in shoplifting. With more people dropping below the poverty line, some will turn to shoplifting. There are more people facing a choice of heating or eating, after all.
Secondly the police have been putting less focus on less serious offences. They have been screening out low-level offences so they can focus on more serious crimes.
When criminals know they are less likely to get caught, they are more likely to commit crime.
Finally, the increase in violent and anti-social offences during lockdown may be explained through increased stress when shopping. It is likely that many of these cases were caused by people getting upset by shortages and lockdown measures in shops.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material seems to support rational choice theory and right realism which are part of the crime and deviance module.