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Understanding Criminality

Posted: Monday 2nd March 2015

One of the barriers to truly understanding criminality is the fact that a gap exists between reported and unreported crime. While crime data helps us to identify trends, it can never reveal the real threat to community safety because many crimes are never reported to police. This ‘dark’ crime figure, to use a term coined by criminologists, is largest for less serious crimes such as shoplifting that might not immediately threaten public safety but nevertheless have a huge impact on our economy and the fortunes of independent businesses.

Shoplifting has rarely been prioritised in the past or given the resources required to understand it better. But theft accounts for the vast majority of all volume crime. We also know that around 90% of shoplifting is never reported to police so it’s also likely to be the biggest incident type facing any force.

Nottinghamshire, like other counties, now accepts that a change of approach is needed to prevent a ‘revolving door’ situation in which shoplifters reoffend no sooner than they emerge from prison. Through the creation of Police and Business Crime in Nottinghamshire (PABCIN) – a public/private sector partnership which manages and analyses intelligence relating to low level crime such as shoplifting – we are trying to implement better offender management and are concentrating on cause and effect to stop that continuous cycle of offending.

With the assistance of electronic tagging in the county, we aim to improve our warning system to shopkeepers to prevent a crime happening in the first place and to enhance information-sharing processes between retailers. We have the support of local businesses and every major supermarket chain for the project and there is now a national focus on this issue which is critical to progressing legislative reform which will enable us to deal with prolific offenders more effectively.

From this year we will also benefit from a new national definition which will enable us to record business crime independently which will go some way to helping us understand the true effects of this type of offending. This is something that local businesses have been pushing for for some time and I am confident that it will help us distribute our resources more effectively to the problems.

Shoplifting is not a victimless crime. The money lost through retail theft could support thousands of people in jobs and it’s time we faced up to the reality.    


Paddy Tipping
Police and Crime Commissioner


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