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Commissioner and Chief unite on zero-tolerance to retail crime

06 March 2024

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones and Chief Constable Scott Chilton have today unveiled how they are turning the tide on retail crime and shoplifting, reporting an 83.3% increase in outcomes for victims.

As part of Safer Business Action (SaBA) month, both leaders are reiterating their commitment to answer calls from business owners to crack down on shop theft.

Since the force returned to a geographic model of policing, officers are more connected to their communities, with a real focus on tackling the crime that has the biggest impact and causes the most harm.

Following the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan, and with the introduction of City Centre Units last year, more offenders are being charged and appearing before the court each week.

Key to this success is utilising facial recognition technology to quickly identify and take action against suspects caught on camera.

The force has also made inroads by working closer with the retail community through a force wide initiative Op Stopall, which is tackling the most prolific retail offenders by working with the business community to gather evidence on repeat retail crime offenders. The initiative is enabling officers to improve their response and service to victims by building stronger cases which result in fewer court hearings because offenders are pleading guilty at the first opportunity, due to the weight of the evidence provided.

So far through Op Stopall, 248 offences have been reported, 10 offenders have been charged with 176 offences and there are currently five individuals under investigation for another 72 offences.

This has increased the reporting of shop theft across the two counties, which the Chief and Commissioner say is a clear sign of increased confidence in the policing response. With the increase in police officer numbers over the last three years, police are rising to the challenge to restore confidence.

Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones said: “Shoplifting across all communities has been increasing for several years. In the past, this crime has not been given the attention or priority it deserves.

“The public have rightly been concerned about the lack of action and the blatant attitude of prolific offenders and organised crime gangs stealing, often without attempting to conceal their theft, daily. Coupled with this, the threats and physical assaults to retail staff which have been increasing, must stop. The public have spoken and I have listened.

“Twelve months ago Chief Constable Scott Chilton came back to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary. At the time of Scott’s appointment we discussed a number of areas of improvement that reflect the public’s concerns. The Chief Constable set about making changes to the force model and I provided the funding for him to recruit and train more police officers. Shoplifting was one of those priorities.

“I am pleased that today, the Chief and I are able to make a lasting commitment to every law-abiding person in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. That commitment is clear; shoplifting will not be tolerated. It will be investigated. The force will find thieves and bring them to justice. If you assault retail workers, or threaten them, you can expect to be brought to justice.

“To support the police I have raised this issue with judges and magistrates to make them aware of this new relentless focus and that they can expect to see an increased volume of people being brought to justice through the courts.

“We need to send a clear message, and as Police and Crime Commissioner, for me it’s simple. If you steal, you will be punished. If you need help with a drug addiction or an alcohol addition, support is available for you. However if you don’t take advantage of that support, shoplifting is no longer going to be an easy option.”

Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “It is not acceptable for retail staff to come to work and fear criminality, anti-social behaviour or violence.

“If left unchecked, we know that retail crime can put shops out of business, causing people to lose their jobs and lead to a deterioration of the local area, which only serves to further increase crime and put more shops out of business.

“The increase in reports shows that the business community now has more confidence to report incidents to us because we will take action. All reasonable lines of enquiry will be pursued to identify offenders, secure available evidence, seek to recover property and ensure witnesses are identified and interviewed.

“We know that many of those who are committing this crimes are also responsible for other crimes in the community. It’s only by working together and embracing the technology we already have at our fingertips that we can gather the evidence to relentlessly pursue those who are committing these offences, and ultimately stop these crimes happening in the first place. Our aim is, and always will be, to ensure that residents and store workers can go about their business free from the risk of criminals and keep our communities safe.”