Shoplifting hits highest level in at least 20 years

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Shoplifting incidents reported to the police have surged to their highest level in at least two decades, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Last year, a staggering 430,104 shoplifting offences were recorded in England and Wales, marking a significant 37% increase from the previous 12 months. This figure represents the highest number of shoplifting incidents since recording practices began in the year to March 2003, as stated by the ONS.

The rise in shoplifting comes amid growing concerns from major retailers about the escalating cost of theft. Additionally, “thefts from the person,” including snatch-thefts and pickpocketing, reached 125,563 incidents in 2023, marking an 18% increase from the previous year and the highest level since 2004.

Robbery incidents also saw an uptick last year, totaling 81,094 offences, representing a 13% increase from the previous year. However, when considering the longer term, robbery rates have significantly decreased by 26% since 2003.

Knife-related crimes experienced a 7% increase, with 49,489 offences recorded by the police. Although this number is 3% lower than in 2015, it still indicates a concerning trend. Notably, the data for knife crimes does not include information from Greater Manchester or Devon & Cornwall police due to data-recording issues.

On a positive note, fraud offences witnessed a 16% decline, driven by reductions in bank and credit account fraud, as well as a notable 34% decrease in advance-fee fraud. Similarly, criminal damage incidents decreased by 18%, including a significant 25% drop in criminal damage to vehicles.

Nick Stripe, head of crime statistics at the ONS, commented on the notable increases in robbery, theft from the person, and shoplifting. He emphasized the substantial rise in shoplifting incidents, with over 100,000 more offences reported, along with the highest levels of theft-from-the-person offences recorded in two decades.

Overall, the ONS crime survey for England and Wales estimated approximately 8.4 million criminal offences in the year ending December 2023, indicating a relatively stable trend compared to the previous year. However, the data also showed a long-term decline in crime, with offences 25% lower than in 2017.

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