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Is casual shoplifting and stealing getting out of hand.

(51 Posts)
TerriBull Mon 11-Sep-23 08:54:57

Many may have read about shoplifting in the US, where stealing goods from shops under a value of $1,000 means just a slap on the wrist. This has affected retailers to such a degree that many stores are having to close up shop and even large retailers such as Walmart have pulled out of certain cities leaving those areas somewhat depleted.

Now we have orchestrated shoplifting here too. Often not from actual need, bearing in mind the awful punishments from times gone by for stealing bread to stay alive, but what we have currently would appear to be sheer greed. A reporter from the ST staked out a Co-op in Bristol and observed one man just fill up his backpack with umpteen packets of cheddar. Some come into convenience type shops and lift high end items like steaks, taking not one or two but loads. In the Mail on line, it now seems that genteel towns down in The New Forest shopkeepers also feel they are being targeted, not even for essentials but people walking off with antiques for example. The common cry of those trying to run a small business is "where are the police" A couple of weeks ago, CCTV cameras caught a couple leaving a hotel with almost the entire contents of their room stuffed into bags, however the police did manage to rouse themselves, but only to visit the hotel when they asked the proprietor to stop showing footage of the couple leaving the hotel with bags bulging with stolen towels etc. as it was causing them distress shock

Multi nationals are finding it hard to sustain the losses, they are being hit with, let alone small business, particularly post Covid, not to mention the fact that staff must be terrified when faced by thieves in balaclavas threatening violence.

Foxygloves Mon 11-Sep-23 09:03:25

Don’t forget who is paying for what is referred to as “shrinkage” in retail. Yes, us.
“Nicking” things from hotels is simply stealing and those caught on camera should be named and shamed , not have their “feelings” protected!
One problem is that there is sadly no shame attached to the crime or felt by the perpetrators.
The cost of living “crisis” is no defence- shoppers, shoplifters and shopkeepers alike are experiencing that.
As for the poor shopkeepers or assistants faced with violent thieves- my heart goes out to them. All those corner shops run by families are regularly under threat and need both our support and that of the police.

DiamondLily Mon 11-Sep-23 09:22:15

My eldest grandson worked in retail for a while, and ended up as Asst Manager at a smallish branch of a major retail chain. He was often there with female assistants. This shop is in a nice area, with few problems, generally.

One day a gang of youths came in, with face scarves on, waving knives around and threatening the staff. My GS got the staff out of the way, and dialled 999.

The police asked him what he expected them to do...🤔. They didn't bother turning up.

So, these youths literally cleared entire shelves - meat, electrical goods, cigarettes, alcohol etc.

Two days later, the same thing happened again. Same youths.

My GS got the staff away, and went out and confronted them - he ended up with a knife slash to his hand.

Again, the shelves were emptied. The police did turn up, 4 hours later, and said that, despite CCTV, there was nothing they could do - just advised my GS to get the slash checked, and rest at home for a few days.

Head Office, of this chain, just advised letting people take stuff, as it wasn't worth the hassle.

My GS handed in his notice, and got another job.

Now, every week, in our local paper, this shop, and others, are targeted virtually daily - and no one does a thing.

I've been in supermarkets where people are literally openly walking out with stuff - not all armed, but they know nothing will happen to them.

The most shops do now is to either put dummy goods on the shelf, or lock away some stuff.

Until the police get involved, and sentencing becomes a deterrent, especially where weapons are used, it will carry on.

This has got nothing to do with the urban myth that it's all about starving parents nicking baby milk or a loaf of bread - this is organised theft.🙁

Calendargirl Mon 11-Sep-23 09:23:05

How many remember years ago, Lady Isobel Barnett, a panellist on What’s My Line being arrested for shoplifting?

I seem to remember she died soon after, not sure if it was by her own hand.

I’m sure the public humiliation was the reason.

No one would bat an eyelid nowadays, it would be a social media sensation for a day.

eazybee Mon 11-Sep-23 09:29:36

I remember Isobel Barnett and the case which was sad, but she was rightly convicted of shoplifting, it had been happening for years.
Shoplifting is theft; the cost is passed on to the customer; the police do nothing, then argue when they are told to stop wasting time on 'woke' matters and concentrate instead on protecting the public.

maddyone Mon 11-Sep-23 09:34:32

I believe those who shoplift all the steaks, or all the cheese for example, do it to sell on. I watched a documentary some years ago about gangs and individuals who shoplifted to order eg a black leather coat in a specific size. When the police refuse to turn up, I don’t know what the answer is really. We deserve better policing, but will we ever get it?
Drive into the ULEZ area in the wrong car and you’ll get a £12.50 fine. Steal a leather coat to order and you’ll receive money from the customer ( I use the word customer in the loosest sense!)

Redhead56 Mon 11-Sep-23 09:37:49

I have seen documentaries about this subject mainly based in the London area. Coming from the north I don’t suppose we merit such attention for a documentary.

I witnessed on many occasions shop lifting one incident was in a large store a whole rail full of track suits was wheeled from the shop. It was put in the back of a waiting vehicle and gone within minutes.

On another shopping trip I witnessed on three occasions shop lifting by family groups. I did alert customers services who pointed out they do have cameras. They might have done but know one was operating them that was obvious.
Genuine shoppers are the ones who lose out as the prices go up. The businesses don’t employ proper well paid security.

Every week in our local news a shop is robbed of goods and it’s usually small independent family run businesses. The staff are intimidated by the thieving bullies and are helpless because there is no back up. Police stations have been closed for years and there are none to be seen or present on the streets.

TerriBull Mon 11-Sep-23 09:38:29

Agree Foxygloves

Diamond Lily your account is truly shocking, how injured would a member of staff have to be before the Police stirred their stumps into action? I can never understand how they appear to turn up mob handed for some storm on a Twitter spat surrounding some mis gendering rubbish, they seemed to find enough officers turn up to drag that poor autistic teenager out of her house recently for saying a female police officer looked like her lesbian grandmother, but for crimes such as you have outlined Diamond Lily the victims get what amounts to an obtuse response.

tickingbird Mon 11-Sep-23 09:54:22

Several months ago I was in an M&S food hall and a man blatantly stole a large joint of meat; just picked it up and placed it inside his jacket. I looked on in amazement as he just strolled out. Another shopper who also witnessed it commented on the brazen nature and casual stroll out of the shop. The joint was so big his jacket didn’t entirely cover it. If something isn’t done it will get worse with more serious crimes being committed with impunity.

Glorianny Mon 11-Sep-23 09:56:03

This isn't new problem although I would imagine that increasing poverty has only made it worse. Nearly 30 years ago a mother told me how much her child's shoes had cost "from the shoplifters" and I was told that if there was something I wanted the shoplifters could get it for me (and in the right size!). There has always been a sub-culture of trading in illegally acquired items amongst poorer people. It has undoubtedly become worse, possibly because of a combination of poverty and drug use and the change in accepted morality standards.
I don't particularly blame the police, the problem is that even if they make an arrest the chances of getting a conviction are very slight.

M0nica Mon 11-Sep-23 09:58:30

DD was in our local village Co-op just a couple of Christmases ago when a man walked briskly in to the shop, up to the chill cabinet, scooped up all the packets of smoked salmon and ran out saying 'I love smoked salmon' .

The staff did nothing and when asked by customers in the store why they didn't ring the police they said it was pointless as the police wouldnt come to the store or even look at the CCTV and their instructions were to report it up the management line but otherwise do nothing.

Bella23 Mon 11-Sep-23 10:08:36

The Gangs know that they can get away with it , this is not a new thing but is excalting out of all control and the police do not seem to act quickly enough.
I know of three incidents, two of which I actually witnessed.In the city I used to live in. The gangs are getting more organised now and to steal 14 blocks of cheese is surely to sell on not for your own consumption. Are people so desperate or are the police too low to react and too lenient?

Glorianny Mon 11-Sep-23 10:16:05

There was a programme on TV about the drug problems in what were once NE mining villages. An addict stole a substantial amount from the local shop to fund. his habit. Police arrested him identifying him from CCTV footage, he was convicted, served a short sentence and came out early on parole (probably because prisons are overcrowded). Within weeks he was back in the village. It isn't police apathy. It is a problem with a whole system that can't cope.

DiamondLily Mon 11-Sep-23 10:17:33

Some shops in the New Forest are taking action themselves, as the police do nothing:

The boss of the Co-Op agrees the whole thing is now out of hand - this is not cases of someone walking out with the odd item, it's wide scale clearing of shelves.

glammanana Mon 11-Sep-23 10:20:18

Who ever thought years ago that now we would be purchasing our Sunday Roast joint of meat locked in a plastic box.

Callistemon21 Mon 11-Sep-23 10:36:58

The fact that it is so organised and has almost become acceptable that there is this trade in stolen to order goods is a newer trend.

I remember years ago an old woman who used to steal a packet of butter or bacon from a Co-op in the city who was regularly arrested; she was charged in the end and put on probation. She needed help more than punishment.

Now the police are just not interested and I don't know if it is lack of resources but I suspect not, it is policy.

Primrose53 Mon 11-Sep-23 10:53:37


I remember Isobel Barnett and the case which was sad, but she was rightly convicted of shoplifting, it had been happening for years.
Shoplifting is theft; the cost is passed on to the customer; the police do nothing, then argue when they are told to stop wasting time on 'woke' matters and concentrate instead on protecting the public.

She lived in the same village as my husband’s Grandfather. They were a similar age. He always said she was very gracious but had been doing it for years but people turned a blind eye.

Richard Madeley was another one.

When my niece was at Uni in Derby she worked part time in a corner shop. She said the shoplifting was dreadful. Big blocks of cheese were the most popular.

Charleygirl5 Mon 11-Sep-23 12:04:49

Where I live a lady had set up an old telephone box as an outside library and people could bring and take books. It worked well until about 4 weeks ago when a couple was filmed emptying the entire box and putting the proceeds in their car.

The filming named and shamed them- they returned everything with a feeble excuse but we think the books would have made money at a car boot sale.

How they can show their brazen faces locally is beyond me.

Callistemon21 Mon 11-Sep-23 12:28:25

There is a wirkd of difference between kleptomania, which is a MH disorder, and organised gangs stealing from shops, often using knives to threaten.

Callistemon21 Mon 11-Sep-23 12:28:44


Redhead56 Mon 11-Sep-23 12:40:46

At a butchers shop in a very affluent area of Liverpool. A guy stood at the counter and asked to see the largest turkey they had. This was last Christmas he grabbed it from the butcher and legged it out of the shop. There must have been a car waiting for him the butcher ran after him but the guy had vanished. It would be very difficult to miss a man running around with a massive turkey. This is true it was reported on the radio and the local news.

Glorianny Mon 11-Sep-23 12:43:25

Callistemon the shoplifting gangs are not really new. They were active 20+ years ago, when in certain schools if the parents liked you, you would be told they could get you stuff, any size, any colour, to order. I never understood how they managed a pair of shoes!!! It was said that some of the women if charged would get pregnant before they appeared in court because they would be less likely to get a custodial sentence. (not sure if that's true)

I think the increase is due to a number of factors. The lack of stigma attached to the act and the goods themselves. The poverty many are living in, the growth of drug use and the inability of the system for dealing with offenders to function at all. Prisons being overcrowded, custodial sentences being regarded as a part of life, the probation service barely functioning and courts struggling to deal with cases. That all means that the police see little point in trying to deal with anyone apart from drastically violent offenders.

SueDonim Mon 11-Sep-23 13:04:33

We recently bought a number of items in a garden centre. After paying for them and going to the car I realised we hadn’t paid for a bag of bulb fibre because we’d hung it from the hook on the trolley and missed it at the checkout. I took it back inside to pay for it and the checkout assistant thanked me for being ‘very honest’!

I was astounded to learn recently that the reason baby formula has security tags on it isn’t because impoverished mothers are stealing it for starving babies, it’s because gangs use it for cutting with illegal drugs.

I hate that we seem to live in such a criminal world, which now appears to range from the bottom to the top of society.

M0nica Mon 11-Sep-23 13:43:26

People on small incomes ae those least like to be stealing and most likely to be caught.

The majority of this theft is by organised gangs, whether organised groups of school children or criminal gangs. There are genuine sob stories but they are few and far between. Most of the theft is greed and the fact that they can get away with it.

When a New York mayor wanted to reduce crime in New York, what he did was sweat the small stuff. The police were told to chase, catch and the courts to punish the small crimes, shop crime was attended. Some shop lifters got prison sentences. The same with pickpocketing snatch theft.

Once people kept being nabbed for petty crime they started avoiding it - and also to avoid bigger crimes. Criminals lost their sense of impunity and were more nervous about being caught for other crimes.

It is time our police started being seen around and sweating the small stuff, in order to frighten those thinking of committining the big stuff.

vegansrock Mon 11-Sep-23 14:02:42

Perhaps we should ask why police aren’t “seen around”? Over the last 13 years police numbers have been cut significantly and you rarely see PCSOs who did a good job of tackling minor crime and anti social behaviour. Theresa May famously said, when Home Secretary, that police numbers made no difference to crime.