HL Deb 26 April 2004 vol 660 cc69-70WA
Lord Morris of Manchester

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent action they have taken to combat retail crime; what estimate they have made of its cost to retailers; and what further action they are considering. [HL2282]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

The Government do not routinely collect information about the cost of retail crime but do take crime against the retail sector very seriously and are taking a wide range of actions to combat this. The British Retail Consortium conducts an annual retail crime survey and the most recent, published in June 2003, estimated the total cost of retail crime in the United Kingdom in 2002 at £2.25 billion. This includes the cost of crime prevention.

The Government have provided £15 million over the past three years to improve the security of small retail businesses in deprived areas. Around 12,500 individual businesses have benefited from the scheme. As part of this scheme we also commissioned and funded a nation-wide series of security training seminars for small retailers.

We have also agreed to provide £899,000 to the British Retail Consortium for the formation of the Action against Business Crime (AABC) group. The AABC group will provide support to existing retail/business crime partnerships and will set up 100 new business crime reduction partnerships in priority locations over the next two years.

Local businesses are encouraged to become a member of their Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP). The CDRP aims to work together to do what it can reasonably to prevent and reduce crime within its local authority area. This could also be a way to reduce fear of crime within the local community, especially if local businesses can help the community to find solutions to its local problems.

Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) can also be used to protect shopworkers. ASBOs can prohibit persons entering specified areas such as shopping centres; they can also prohibit persons engaging in specified anti-social acts, for example shoplifting, verbally abusing shopworkers, writing graffiti on a shop, and can also prohibit persons approaching specified persons.

Drug-related crime is of concern to many retailers and so we are piloting two schemes, in Brighton and Northampton, to help reduce drug-related retail crime by ensuring that persistent shop thieves with drug problems have access to treatment.

In January of this year we set up a forum of small business representatives, many of which are retail organisations, to provide them with an opportunity to voice concerns and make suggestions direct to the Government. As a result of the concerns raised in the forum three working groups have been developed. These groups are business led and will examine the police response to business crime, possible options for incentivising business to take crime reduction measures and help to develop a strategy to provide crime reduction information and advice to business.

We believe that it is important to work with the retail sector in crime reduction, and representatives of the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Small Business Service have played an active role in the crime sub-group of the industry-led Retail Strategy Group. The group will produce a report shortly and we will take account of its recommendations when considering further action to combat retail crime.