HL Deb 20 January 2003 vol 643 cc69-70WA
Lord Fearn

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to combat shoplifting. [HL994]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I recognise the detrimental impact that theft from shops has on the retail industry and the wider community.

The Home Office continues to support the development of retail crime partnerships, helping them build on the good work they have already done in combating shop theft. These partnerships share information on known offenders, are normally linked by communication systems and typically run schemes to exclude known shop thieves from their stores. The Home Office employed a consultant for a period of two years to work with the British Retail Consortium, helping it set up retail crime partnerships and providing a comprehensive guide about how to set up and run such a partnership. We are encouraging retail crime partnerships to work with local crime and disorder reduction partnerships and to involve other businesses in the locality so as to maximise their impact.

We are also aware that theft from shops can have a particularly detrimental impact on the communities and small retail businesses in our most deprived areas. That is why the Government have allocated £15 million over the financial years 2001–02 to 2003–04 to improve the security of small retail businesses in deprived areas. The funding can be used for a wide variety of security measures such as CCTV, locks and alarms for individual businesses; or to pay for measures which will improve the security of a group of shops, such as a radio link scheme; or to improve the immediate environment of a shopping area in order to reduce the opportunities for crime. Nearly 3,000 shops benefited from the first year's funding and a further 4,500 individual shops and businesses will benefit directly from the £6 million made available in this the second year of the scheme. A further £6 million will be available next year to enable more shopkeepers to benefit from extra security.

The Home Office has also produced a user friendly guide to help retailers combat theft and other crime problems they encounter. This guide was prepared in conjunction with the main retail trade organisations and has been widely circulated to retailers. The guide is available on the crime reduction website at http:// www.crimereduction.gov.uk/business22.htm and through police community safety officers.

Many of the Government's crime reduction initiatives, such as the CCTV initiative, focus on town centres and community shopping areas. The nearly 700 schemes approved under the CCTV initiative will have a beneficial impact on theft from shops in the areas they cover.

Theft from shops is one important element of crime problems that affect the business community, and crimes against business contribute significantly to the crime problems which face society. That is why my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety launched a consultation process in December 2002 to seek the views of all business organisations, including those operating in the retail sector, on the best means of creating and maintaining effective partnerships to reduce the opportunities for crime against business and to enhance the contribution that business can make to crime reduction overall. A dedicated team is also being set up within the Home Office specifically to act as a focus for efforts to tackle business-related crime.