How shoplifting figures have changed over the years - and did Covid affect crime rates?

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Retailers have launched a new scheme to track down shoplifters and identify them on the police database

Retailers have begun implementing new schemes and initiatives to deter thieves after new figures show that shoplifting rates have increased by a quarter since last year. According to The Office of National Statistics, the average retail store is reporting 24% more shoplifting incidents than this time last year which has sparked interventions.

It’s been announced that 10 of the UK’s largest retailers including Tesco, John Lewis and Next are coming together to fund a new police operation aimed to deter shoplifters in their stores. The new scheme, named Project Pegasus, will run CCTV pictures of shoplifting incidents through the Police National Database - in a a bid to minimise these types of crimes and identify thieves.

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Meanwhile, Co-op has also announced it is employing especially-trained undercover guards to catch thieves red-handed in stores. Looking back on last year, in England and Wales there were approximately 342,343 shoplifting offences recorded by the police in, compared with 275,076 in the previous reporting year.

Last year, the shoplifting rate for England and Wales as a whole was 5.7 shoplifting offences per 1,000 population. Looking at individual police force areas, the area covered by Cleveland Police Force, in North East England, had the highest shoplifting rate of 13, followed by Nottinghamshire, at 10.9. By contrast, Surrey’s Police Force Area had the lowest shoplifting rate of just 3.3 offences per 1,000 population.

However, despite the increase in offences from last year, the amount of reported crimes is still lower than pre-pandemic figures. In 2019/2020 there were 359,256 offences reported, which then dropped to 228,000 the following year as Covid lockdowns commenced.

However, retailers are urging the police and government to do more to deter these types of offences.  Ministers reportedly met with police chiefs and retail representatives last week to “hammer out plans to target shoplifters”.

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The identity of the police office caught shoplifting cannot be revealedThe identity of the police office caught shoplifting cannot be revealed
The identity of the police office caught shoplifting cannot be revealed

Meanwhile, Tesco’s CEO also addressed the issue of shoplifting last week, as the retail giant announced plans to offer staff members bodycams to reduce the amount of assault on shop workers.

Co-op managing director of food Matt Hood told The Telegraph: “The rise in shop looting and retail crime, perpetuated by repeat, prolific offenders and organised criminal gangs is becoming one of the most significant issues facing UK communities.”

Reported shoplifting offences since 2013

We have taken a look at the reported shoplifting offences throughout the decade.


Reported offences: 321,065


Reported offences: 326,035


Reported offences: 337,260

Reported offences: 370,300

Reported offences: 382,649

Reported offences: 375,348

Reported offences: 359,256

Reported offences: 228,154

Reported offences: 275,076

Reported offences: 342,343

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