LABOUR in Bournemouth has launched a campaign calling on the government to back stronger action against retail crime

Shoplifting has been described by Labour as a “blight” on the country’s town centres and high streets with shop workers going to work “in fear”.

Labour has vowed to tackle retail crime by reversing the Conservatives’ decision to downgrade the response to shoplifting under £200. 

This would “make it easier to take action against repeat offenders following record high levels of shoplifting over the past year, and ending the farce of offending impunity”, according to Labour. 

Bournemouth Echo: Labour in Bournemouth

Jessica Toale, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth West, said: “Retail crime has been rising at a shocking rate across the UK. 

“A recent report from the Co-op Group highlighted that shoplifting and anti-social behaviour have jumped 35 per cent year-on-year, with more than 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of 2023 – almost 1,000 incidents every day.  

“At the same time, shop workers are facing unacceptable levels of violence and abuse. We see this across Bournemouth and it is something people raise on the doors with me regularly. 

“After a decade-long campaign from both the Labour and Co-operative Parties, the government has finally u-turned and will now make abusing a shop worker a standalone offence.  

“But whilst ministers have resisted this move at every point, our town centres have been less safe and shop workers are going to work in fear.” 

David Stokes, Labour’s police and crime commissioner candidate, added: “With 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police and PCOS on our streets since 2015, an increasing number of reported retail crimes are going unattended, leaving our town centres and high streets exposed and our communities paying the price.” 

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics show 3,944 shoplifting offences were recorded by Dorset Police in the year to June – up from 2,891 in 2022. 

Police recorded about 16,800 theft offences in 2022-23 – rise from 15,700 the year before, according to the ONS. 

Bournemouth Echo: Police and crime commissioner David SidwickPolice and crime commissioner David Sidwick (Image: Newsquest)

Earlier this year, businesses, BCP Council and Dorset Police committed themselves to the Business Crime Reduction Partnership. 

It will collate the information gathered, aiming to reveal hotspots, high-risk times of day, and patterns of repeat offenders. 

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick added: "Business crime is not a victimless offence, and since I came to the office, I have heard from business owners how serious and damaging incidents of shoplifting can be, especially when staff are abused or attacked. 

"It is only by working together and sharing intelligence that we can truly tackle the crimes our business communities across Dorset face.  

“Shoplifters prey on our communities, and by working together, we will bring more of them to justice and make our shops and streets safer."