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Shoplifting will be treated as a ‘high-harm’ cross-border crime on par with robbery, burglary and fraud by a new specialist national police team. 

The squad of intelligence analysts will be tasked with identifying and targeting the organised criminal gangs blamed for fuelling a 37 per cent increase in shoplifting in a year. 

High street giants including John Lewis, Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Next are each pumping £60,000 into the operation, dubbed Project Pegasus.

The unit will see police and retailers across the UK pool their intelligence to target repeat offenders. It is part of a wider crackdown on shoplifting to be announced by ministers and police chiefs over the next fortnight. 

Katy Bourne, the police and crime commissioner for Sussex and the national lead for business and retail crime, said gangs had been evading justice due to the lack of a coordinated national approach. 

Bosses at nearly 90 retailers including Tesco , Sainsbury’s and Boots have joined forces to call for a crackdown on brazen shoplifters bringing chaos to Britain’s streets. Pictured: ITV News cameras catch thief trying to steal booze from south London store as reporter interviews shopkeeper about shoplifting epidemic

She gave the example of a gang led by two brothers that shoplifted £500,000 of goods over two and a half years across 15 different police force areas. 

She said they were able to get away with their crimes because ‘forces only dealt with crimes in their patches’.

Policing minister Chris Philp is today expected to reveal more details about the government’s crackdown on shoplifters, the Telegraph reported. 

Pegasus will form part of Opal, the national police intelligence unit for organised acquisitive crime. It has previously focused on “high-harm and cross-border” robbery, burglary, vehicle crime, robbery, heritage and cultural property crime, metal and infrastructure crime and plant and agricultural thefts, but not shoplifting.

The lack of police manpower dedicated to tackling shoplifting became apparent when it emerged that one supermarket had 30 analysts tracking suspect compared to a police force that only had two, a source reportedly said. 

It comes as bosses at nearly 90 retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots have joined forces to call for a crackdown on brazen shoplifters bringing chaos to Britain’s streets.

The 88 companies, who also include WH Smith, Aldi, Primark and Superdrug, have written to the Government to demand action as Britain’s shoplifting epidemic spirals out of control.

Shameless thieves have frequently been caught on camera brazenly stealing – in cases attacking staff – with retail bosses claiming they are powerless to stop criminals.

The retail giants – who are usually bitter rivals – are urging the Government to make assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker a specific crime – something which exists in Scotland already.

‘This standalone offence would send an important signal that our colleagues will receive better protection in law and act as a deterrent to would-be offenders. This action should be taken without delay,’ the letter says. 

This is the moment that a man was caught on CCTV stealing clothes from a John Lewis store

This is the shocking moment a Halfords manager was kicked in the head by two shoplifters

Dramatic footage shows a masked armed robber who threatened three young women in an attempt to rob a newsagent

Retail bosses have called for a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman to speak about the epidemic after a meeting with Chris Philp – the minister for crime – led to the promise of developing a plan.

It comes after retailers including the Co-op and John Lewis, highlighted that shoplifting was getting worse, while the chairman of Asda this month said stealing had essentially been ‘decriminalised’. 

The Mail on Sunday has launched a campaign calling on the authorities to crack down on thieves. 

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said this summer shoplifting had risen 27 per cent across ten of the largest cities in the UK, with some cities up as much as 68 per cent.

It estimates that shops lost £953million to customer theft last year – the greatest loss on record in recent years.

And official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting rose 24 per cent between March 2022 and March 2023.

Waitrose has revealed organised gangs are targeting stores along Tube routes, while Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Aldi are searching shoppers using self service tills amid a rise in thefts.

Co-op has also resorted to removing chocolates from their boxes and displaying empty packets in a bid to stop shoplifters. 

Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, which helped in organising the letter to the Home Secretary said: ‘It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse. We are seeing organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores. 

Co-op has previously released footage of its staff grappling with shoplifters in stores 

Team leader Charlene Corbin was bottled by a shoplifter at the Co-op where she works

‘We are seeing violence against colleagues who are doing their job and asking for age verification. We are seeing a torrent of abuse aimed at hardworking shop staff. 

‘It’s simply unacceptable – no one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. 

‘We need government to stand with the millions of retail workers who kept us safe and fed during the pandemic – and support them, as those workers supported us.’ 

The rise in shoplifting and assaults on staff has forced many large retailers to take drastic action.

Tesco’s Ken Murphy said last month that all the supermarket chain’s frontline workers will be offered body cameras following a surge in violent attacks. He said more than 200 of its staff are victims of serious physical assaults each month.

One shocking video showed a thug lunging at a Tesco worker with a knife after a supermarket worker bravely wrestled stolen goods of him. The attacker, Josh James, was jailed for eight years following a six-moth crime spree.

Attacks on shop workers rose sharply during the Covid pandemic when some customers vented their frustration on employees, and the problem has worsened since then.

A recent survey found episodes of violence and abuse against retail workers increased from 450 a day in 2019 to more than 850 a day last year.

A shoplifter has a tug of war with a Co-op worker in Liverpool 

Staff report being sworn at, subjected to racial or sexual insults, physically threatened, spat on and subjected to physical violence.

The Co-op logged almost 1,000 incidents a day of retail crime in the six months to June, an increase of 35 per cent on the same period in 2022 and its highest ever levels.

The Co-op’s frontline staff now wear body cameras and headsets so they can call for help if attacked, part of a £200 million investment in security over recent years.

Footage of shoplifters being caught on camera appears to be a daily occurrence. Earlier this week, a brazen thief was caught on camera trying to steal booze while an ITV journalist interviewed the store’s owner about Britain’s shoplifting epidemic.

The footage was filmed in a shop in Croydon, south London, and captured the moment the brazen thief attempted to barge his way past the camera crew.

Wearing a camouflage coat, the man is caught on CCTV casually wandering down an aisle before then taking a bottle of alcohol and shoving it in his pocket.

Remarkably, as this was happening, live CCTV footage of the shoplifter was playing in the background while an ITV journalist interviewed shopkeeper Ben Selvaratnam.

‘I think he’s… I think he’s stealing,’ a woman is heard saying, before the camera pans around and films the man being confronted by shop staff.

This is the moment a blatant shoplifter was caught stealing speakers and clothes from John Lewis

Other footage over the year has been shared by retail companies of staff being robbed by armed intruders, while one Halfords manager suffered life-changing injuries after being attacked by two shoplifters.

Shoplifting is also spreading to middle-class mothers who have confessed to getting a thrill out of stealing.

Caroline, 53, who is married with two children in their 20s, admitted to the Mail last month: ‘The thrill lies in getting away with it, I certainly don’t do it for financial gain because I don’t need to.’

Dressed in tailored trousers, heels and a jacket, with immaculately styled hair and make-up, she hardly fits the stereotypical image of a thief, but neither is she alone.

Caroline, not her real name,  says it all began for her one day in 2021 in a well-known DIY superstore.

‘I’d gone to collect some pre-ordered items but I also needed to buy a £150 power drill on the day,’ she explains. ‘I suddenly had this compulsion to peel the ‘already paid for’ sticker from one of my pre-ordered items and put it onto the power drill instead. To avert suspicion, I picked up a few bedding plants costing around £5, which I put through the till.

‘My heart was hammering, and I fully expected to feel the hand of a security guard on my shoulder. But by the time I got to the car, I felt such a buzz. I couldn’t believe I’d got away with it. I can explain it only as a sudden, impetuous two fingers up to the fact that life was – and still is – very stressful.’

One in eight shop bosses no longer report shoplifting incidents because they say police are uninterested, while criminal gangs consider stores soft targets and systematically strip them of goods.

Legal action is also declining. In the year to June 2022, 21,279 people were prosecuted for shoplifting in England and Wales, compared with 80,352 a decade ago.

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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