Pure Beauty

UK's organised crime police unit rolls out to curb shoplifting epidemic

By Alessandro Carrara | Published: 4-Apr-2024

Beauty brands in particular have seen a surge in violent shoplifting crime rates over the past year

The UK police unit dedicated to organised crime is launching an education scheme to tackle the growing rate of shoplifting.

The virtual training sessions by Opal will guide retailers and police forces on how to gather and present data on criminal activities.

This will then be used to analyse organised crime on a national scale, which Opal claimed  would be “instrumental” in identifying the groups most responsible for shoplifting crimes.

Stephanie Coombes, Head of Intelligence at Opal, said the intelligence unit has been carrying out this training and analysis role for other crime types for a number of years. 

“We have seen significant successes from having a national overview of what’s happening in the organised crime world,” she said.

“You may have for example, an organised crime group targeting a chain of convenience stores in one region who are also using the same tactics in several different areas.”

Opal’s new education initiative comes amid a surge in violent retail crimes for beauty retailers.

For every 25 incidents where thieves are targeting beauty products in the UK, three of those will include violent and aggressive behaviour, according to crime prevention agency Auror.

The organisation said beauty stores are prime targets for criminals, as they stock items that can easily be stolen and sold for a premium online.

Recent data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has also revealed that violent shoplifting incidents have soared over the past year.

Its retail crime survey revealed that the number of incidents rose to 1,300 per day in 2023, up as.

“Without a national team to bring together that information, we could have several police forces each looking into the same group so Opal’s role is to centralise that intelligence, build a strong evidence package and then work with the relevant force/s to deal with these high harm offenders,” added Coombes.

“We need to stress that Opal’s service does not replace reporting incidents to your local police force, it is a route for sharing information and intelligence packages and one of the key requirements for making a referral is having a crime number for the related incident/s.”

Pegasus, the government-backed initiative launched in October 2023 to address retail crime in the country, has provided the funding for the training.

The scheme, which is also known as the Retail Crime Action Plan, was launched to tackle the rise in shoplifting, catch more prolific offenders and keep retail workers safe.

“Opal has provided a vital service to police forces for a number of years and will significantly boost the response to retail crime, showing these organised crime groups that there is quite simply nowhere to hide,” added Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman is the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Acquisitive Crime.

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