Written evidence submitted by the Association of Convenience Stores (POP0028)

  1. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Home Affairs Committee’s Policing Priorities Inquiry. ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) represents 48,590 local shops in the UK including Spar, the Co-op and thousands of independent retailers.[1] These businesses, and the people they employ, are frequent victims of crime.


  1. ACS’ Crime Report 2022 demonstrates the type of crime that retailers in the convenience sector regularly face.[2] There were 970,000 incidents of shop theft in the sector from March 2021-March 2022, which cost stores an average of £1,066. 53% of thefts were committed by repeat offenders with drug or alcohol addiction being the most common motivation. These prolific offenders are often known to police, retailers and the local community. Another major crime facing the sector is violence and abuse against shopworkers. In the same period, there were 32,216 incidents of violence. A refusal to comply with COVID secure guidelines and enforcing age-restricted sales policies were the top two triggers of violence. Furthermore, 89% of store colleagues experienced verbal abuse with 25% claiming that incidents were hate-motivated.


  1. Our Crime Report also demonstrates convenience stores’ views of and opinions on the police.[3] While there has been some progress, for instance, 37 out of 42 UK police and Crime Commissioners referenced business crime in their most recent Police and Crime Plans, there is still significant work required. ACS’ polling of retailers shows that 47% are very dissatisfied with the time taken by police to respond to incidents and 55% gave the same response when asked about the quality of police investigations into incidents affecting their stores. The high level of dissatisfaction felt by retailers is leading to the under-reporting of criminal incidents in the sector. We understand the immense pressure on police resources; however, forces must work to build better connections and relationships with businesses in their areas of jurisdiction. We know that the reporting of incidents is key to addressing retail crime so store colleagues must feel confident that reporting will lead to an effective response.


Question 1. What a modern police service, fit for the 2020s and beyond, looks like


  1. For retailers in our sector and beyond to feel confident that they can conduct business securely and safely, we want local police forces to significantly increase the response rate to crimes reported by businesses. This is paramount in building public confidence in the police and bringing down the rates of crime in the retail sector. In addition, we want to see continuity from police forces in all areas of the UK when providing businesses with advice on how to report crime. The reporting procedure needs to be consistent across the country. Finally, police forces must provide businesses with confidence that they will respond to incidents of violence and abuse, even when offenders have left the scene.


Question 6. What steps can be taken to improve national conviction rates, including via relationships with other bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service.


  1. ACS’ Crime Report 2022 found that the predominant motivator of

              prolific offenders committing retail crime in the sector is alcohol or drug addiction.[4]

This is supported by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report, ‘Desperate for a Fix,’ which concluded that 70% of shop theft is committed by someone with a drug addiction.[5] Too often these prolific offenders are not dealt with effectively by the   police. ‘Desperate for a Fix,’ makes an important recommendation that could help rectify this problem. A Second Chance Programme would develop a system where thousands of the most prolific drug-addicted shop thieves are provided a genuine solution which would replace short-term prison sentences and other ineffective penal measures. We believe a Second Chance Programme would help reform criminals and deliver lower rates of shop theft in the retail sector. Drug-addicted shop thieves can become entrenched in the criminal system and evolve into more serious criminals as a result. If shop thieves are dealt with early then more serious crime              can also be addressed.


November 2022









[1] ACS Local Shop Report 2022

[2] ACS Crime Report 2022

[3] ACS Crime Report 2022

[4] ACS Crime Report 2022

[5] The Centre for Social Justice, ‘Desperate for a Fix,’ 2018