A stronger prosecution option is needed for those who shoplift to feed a drug addiction, according to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the ACS.
The CSJ’s Desperate for a Fix report highlights that 70% of shoplifting is driven by addictions to heroin, crack cocaine and new psychoactive substances, also known as bath salts.
In the report, the CSJ recommends ‘The Second Chance Programme’ – two years of education and rehabilitation to take place in secure and residential units separate from society.
Rory Geoghegan, head of criminal justice at the CSJ, said that drug use, austerity and lack of legislation meant that prolific offenders are “cycling through the system”.
The initiative would target up to 10,000 of the most prolific shoplifters over five years and cost £250m. However, it is projected to save the Government between £500m and £1bn and reduce drug use and offending by 15%.
The report explained: “This paper proposes a new sentencing option that would simultaneously offer the offenders a chance of long-term recovery, while providing the victims of crime with respite.”
At the launch of the report, Conservative MP Priti Patel said: “We need to give retailers confidence in the police and justice system. We used to be the party of law and order but the Government is failing here. We need to be better.”
Backing the think tank’s suggestions, ACS CEO James Lowman said: "We are actively promoting the report's call for better working between retailers and Police and Crime Commissioners by calling on all Police and Crime Commissioners to sign up to a series of pledges to take shop theft seriously and deal more effectively with repeat offenders.”
If succesful, the policy would support convenience store owners heavily affected by crime. Exclusive research by Retail Express showed that shoplifters targeting independently-operated stores are four times less likely to be caught.
Despite investing in anti-crime measures and increasing staff numbers in store at any one point, Sunita Kanji said shoplifting is a daily occurrence in her Little Hulton Family Shopper in Manchester.
Kanji said addiction problems led to alcoholics stealing alcohol lines, addicts stealing high resale value lines like aerosols, and their children stealing food lines due to parental neglect.
Asked about the CSJ’s suggested measures, the retailer agreed stronger action was needed to make a dent in the crime experienced in stores. “If you’re not taught a lesson, how do you expect people to learn?” she said.
Home Office stats show that 60% of theft is committed by people with 36 or more previous convictions. As well as drug addiction, the report also identified welfare reform, gambling, pay day loans and modern slavery as other causes of shoplifting.
The CSJ’s report includes 20 other suggestions on tackling retail crime driven by addiction.
These include using technology to monitor organised and individual shop theft, a review of retail crime responses by different police forces, tougher sentencing on those that use or threaten force, schemes to help vulnerable stores install anti-crime measures, and access to universal credit for those leaving prison in need of financial assistance.
Read more: How MUP will help customers struggling with alcohol addiction