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How we're tackling shoplifting - an update

It is no secret that shoplifting offences have risen across the country, and sadly Dorset is not immune from this national surge. Retail crime is a major cause for concern, not just among business owners and retailers, but for the wider public. Today, I want to detail some of the significant work happening in Dorset to tackle this blight on our high streets.

I know business crime is not a victimless offence and I assure you I take it extremely seriously. Indeed it was a reason I stood for this role originally. From my regular conversations with business owners and leaders, I know the impact these harmful crimes not only have on business’ bottom lines, but on the staff and communities targeted. I am determined to bring about change, not only to drive down these offences but ensure businesses have increased confidence in reporting to police. This is vital as without crucial information and intelligence, police cannot target resources to specific areas, allowing criminals to operate freely without fear of consequence.

I know the rise in these offences nationally is largely attributed to drug addiction, organised crime, and prolific offenders, among other more localised factors. While in Dorset we have not seen the same organised crime group effect, we know goods have been stolen to order and then sold in other retail outlets. As many of you will know, my stance on drugs is robust and there is plenty being done to tackle illegal drugs in our county, such as Operation Scorpion and Operation Viper. Illegal drugs can inflict harm on our communities in so many ways and I am determined to drive out those bringing them into Dorset.

I have been very clear in my Police and Crime Plan that reducing shoplifting and retail crime is a priority. As part of this, one of the initiatives my office has launched is the Dorset Safer Business Partnership (DSBP). This is a strategic group consisting of my office, Dorset Police and local business lead representatives working together under four key areas – crime prevention, crime reporting, engagement and visibility, cyber-crime, and fraud.

Alongside the DSBP, my office has also introduced the UKPAC Crime Reporting Platform to Dorset. This unique, online information sharing system is helping to drive down low-level crime and antisocial behaviour across the UK. The system works by linking with Dorset Police and allowing easier building of evidential cases. Through working with UKPAC, and thanks to support from my Office, we have seen three Business Improvement Districts in Bournemouth town centre, Poole and Coastal come together to form a Business Crime Reduction Partnership. A grant for 200 retail businesses not part of BIDs to join the UKPAC system has also been made available. If you’re interested in signing up, just contact This service means the process of reporting non-urgent crime to the police is completed on a business’s behalf – all they must do is log the incident on UKPAC’s platform. The organisation then compiles the data and crimes reported by each member to help gain effective prosecution against repeat and prolific offenders.

The targeting of prolific offenders is fundamental to successfully tackling shoplifting in our county. At our recent meeting of the DSBP, members received an update from Dorset Police Chief Inspector Alyssa Forrest from the Force’s Investigation and Resolution Centre on Op Shopkeeper, a bespoke operation focused on shoplifting. Op Shopkeeper targets prolific offenders through identifying trends and hotspots. Dorset Police’s tactical plan is a whole system approach which rightly, starts with prevention. It operates across the whole of Dorset, and I am pleased to say is successfully tackling the prolific offenders we know commit the majority of retail crime in our county. For example, since November, Op Shopkeeper has targeted 23 prolific offenders, who have been charged with 312 shoplifting offences. As a result of this focused police work, greater sentences are being achieved in the courts, dealing with the true nature of the offending. One perpetrator was recently convicted for 54 shoplifts and sentenced to three years in prison and handed a four-year restraining order. This is just one of the incredible results we are seeing, with more to come.

But Dorset Police cannot tackle this alone; they need the help and intelligence from business owners and the community. The importance of reporting crime cannot be understated. Dorset Police need to know what is happening and where, in order to direct their resources. I am determined to drive down this crime in Dorset, and I know that by working together this is possible – we’re already seeing the results. I expect Dorset Police to investigate every shoplifting report and to attend where a suspect has been detained or there has been an assault against staff. If you’re a business owner or have information about a business crime, you can help by reporting, and if you have been a victim of retail crime, I would urge you to complete the theft packs and return it to Dorset Police. Without these packs, the police cannot prosecute.

I am clear; as well as the initiatives outlined above, Dorset Police have a robust plan in place to tackle these crimes - and it’s working. By working together, we can stop the damage shoplifting inflicts on our businesses and communities; enough is enough.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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