John Lewis boss says shoplifting has become an ‘epidemic’

Shoplifting has become an “epidemic”, with incidents not always investigated by police, the John Lewis boss has said.

Dame Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, said store workers have to put up with “abuse and attacks” from thieves.

John Lewis is among the UK’s ten biggest retailers who have agreed to fund a police operation to crack down on shoplifting, called Project Pegasus.

Businesses are expected to pay around £600,000 for the project, which will use CCTV footage and facial recognition technology to better understand shoplifting operations.

Thefts from stores have more than doubled in the past six years, reaching eight million in 2022, estimates the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

In August, police arrested nine people and issued 34 dispersal orders after an incident in London’s Oxford Street, following rumors of planned unrest on social media.

“High streets risk becoming a looting ground for emboldened shoplifters and organized gangs,” said Dame Sharon, writing in The Telegraph.

She said the UK needed a comprehensive plan to end organized gangs and called for Scottish legislation making abuse of a retail worker a criminal offence. be introduced nationally.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “Last year we saw twice as many offenses.

“When I think of our shop floor workers who have been seen as national heroes during the pandemic, it’s not fair that they have to endure abuse and attacks.

“Police have not always responded to incidents…and sometimes these incidents have violent aspects.”

On Monday, the retail boss said a royal commission – which is an independent public inquiry – was needed to help support retailers.

There needs to be a “big picture” of the problems facing high streets, rather than investigating issues such as taxation, crime, planning, housing and environmental policy individually, she said. supported.

Iceland executive chairman Richard Walker said his company was spending “more than ever” on security, but “serious incidents have never been higher”.

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