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Retailers spend £30 million a year to tackle shoplifting through “private policing” in UK: “Retailers have given up on police investigating shoplifting. That’s why we do these prosecutions.”

Retailers are spending £30 million a year on security and private ‘police forces’ to arrest and prosecute shoplifters after ‘giving up’ on getting help from the authorities, a Mail on Sunday investigation has found.

The move has seen some of the biggest brands in the UK resorting to a private army of uniformed ‘officers’ to protect staff from increasingly brazen and violent shoplifters.

While a conventional security company provides personnel to patrol individual stores, the modern forces cover entire shopping areas alongside private detectives – mostly highly experienced ex-police officers –who are able to investigate criminals and take them to court in private prosecutions.

So far, thousands of thieves have been arrested by the private firms and prosecuted, with many receiving either custodial sentences or being banned from stores.

The spread of private policing comes as the UK faces a shoplifting epidemic, with more than ten million thefts every year – about 30,000 per day or one every two seconds. Home Office data shows shoplifting rose by 24 per cent last year, as thieves take advantage of lax policing and a criminal justice system that lets off perpetrators without jail sentences.

The Mail on Sunday last week launched a campaign to get authorities to act against shoplifting.

Their investigation has found:

  • One private policing firm has successfully prosecuted 300 shoplifters on behalf of retailers;
  • Organised criminal gangs are behind half of all shoplifting cases;
  • Thieves are stealing meat from shops to sell to restaurants;
  • A police unit called Pegasus has now been set up to gather intelligence to smash shoplifting gangs.

Across Britain there are 332 Business Improvement Districts – areas where firms pay into funds to improve local services – but now up to £30 million each year is being diverted to security and private policing firms in a bid to stop shoplifting, according to retail experts.

One firm, TM Eye, employs 100 ‘bobbies’, who wear police-like uniforms with red stab-proof vests, and 28 plain-clothes detectives who mingle with shoppers.

CEO David McKelvey, a former detective chief inspector at Scotland Yard, said: ‘Retailers have given up on police investigating shoplifting. That’s why we do these prosecutions.’

When the firm’s detectives arrest shoplifters, they hand them over to the police. But if they believe they have enough evidence, they send it to magistrates’ court to request a private prosecution. So far the company has prosecuted 300 thieves in court, winning 299 cases.

Ten of Britain’s leading retailers have funded a £600,000 police operation called Pegasus. Detectives will study data, including CCTV, to create profiles of shoplifters and the gangs they belong to. The intelligence will be passed to police forces early next year.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, who is leading the project, said: ‘I want to see policing nationally to tackle gangs as they are the ones causing most harm.’

(Source: Mail Online)

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