Retailers and trade organisations have criticised police advice that shopkeepers can carry out a citizen’s arrest if they witness shop theft in-store.

Julian Taylor-Green, of Taylor-Green’s Spar in Hampshire, said: “The police shouldn’t be encouraging citizen’s arrests. However, current response rates are down because of budget cuts. If we had arrested someone, the police would have no choice but to come to us and deal with the situation,” he said.

NFRN president Mike Mitchelson added: “Shopkeepers and their staff should not be encouraged to take matters into their own hands. Instead, we need to convince the police and crime commissioners to take shop theft more seriously and promote better response times to retailers who need help.”

A spokeswoman from Northamptonshire Police told RN: “Our advice to victims of crime is to call us first on 999, or on 101 if it is a non-emergency. We’d advise calling us first as opposed to making a citizen’s arrest.”

Meanwhile, retailers also called for clarification on what constitutes as ‘reasonable force’ following the police advice. 

Guidelines posted on police websites, including those of Essex and Northamptonshire, said retailers can ‘use reasonable force to make the suspect comply with [retailer’s] instructions’, providing personal and staff safety is a first concern.

However, Ravi Raveendran, of Colombo Food & Wine in Hounslow, said there are no clear instructions on how to detain thieves.

“If people steal and it’s within our premises, they can just insist they were planning to pay. Until they leave, it’s not technically a crime. Plus, there is no definition on what ‘reasonable force’ means,” he said.

In order to make a citizen’s arrest work, he added, police needed to educate retailers on limitations to prevent themselves being charged for common assault. 

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