High priorityThe BRC, which represents 104 members with a combined annual turnover of £137bn, representing almost 40 per cent of the UK retail marketplace, is now calling for retail crime to be treated with a much higher priority, reflecting the industry’s impact on the economy and employment. It is “strongly recommending” that police and crime commissioners look carefully at making specific reference to retail crime in their police and crime plans. BRC chief executive Helen Dickenson said: “Retail directly employs nearly one in every ten workers in the UK, and millions more indirectly. “Retail already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking, and against that backdrop the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact. In particular, the figures on violence present a deeply concerning picture.” She added: “Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. “But they are now spending record amounts on crime prevention, which is a drag on the economic viability of shops and not infinitely sustainable.” The crime prevention tactics retailers are turning to fight rising crime include investment in more sophisticated technology, and better equipment and training for employees.
Self-policeJames Martin, the BRC’s crime and security advisor, said: “Crime prevention spend covers a wide range of areas, including investment in new technology, where there are continuing advances in CCTV. We are also seeing greater use of body cams for deterrence and conviction purposes. “When it comes to technology such as facial recognition, whilst there is some interesting work there is more work to do before the technology can be adopted more widely if that’s the best way to identify known criminals.” However, the survey highlighted that the UK’s retail community – while having their own role to play in identifying, reporting and stopping crime – should not be pressed into taking on tasks that should fall to the police. It stated: “If retailers continue to have to effectively ‘self-police’ in a number of areas and across a wide range of crimes, then the necessary level of spending may not be available and current services provision may be threatened. The risks to jobs in the community is obvious.”
Facial recognitionA BRC spokesperson explained: “We have absolute respect for the work of the police and the commitment and bravery shown by individual officers, and recognise the challenging prioritisation they and police and crime commissioners face. “But given that around ten per cent of the UK’s total workforce is directly employed by the retail industry, with millions more indirectly employed, and the challenging conditions it faces, we think there is a clear case for retail crime to be given a greater priority in their police and crime plans and operational decision-making. “We are already working with innovative partners to build the right kind of give and take partnerships which do that, and will gladly assist others who are interested in how to best do that.” One company focused on empowering retailers and businesses of all types with a low-cost solution for tackling crime is Facewatch, including access to market-ready facial recognition technology. Facewatch CEO Nick Fisher said: “Our mission is to commoditise facial recognition for all business and launch the greatest advance in security since the introduction of CCTV. We designed this solution in response to rising crime rates, to empower frustrated retailers to self-help.” He added: “Retailers are not reporting crime because they believe nothing will get done and 56 per cent of businesses believe the police are poor at dealing with retail crime and yet crime rates are three times higher than in 2008.”
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