2024 UK Crime Survey

Addressing the Escalating Crime Crisis in the UK

“Retail: The Backbone of the UK’s Socio-Economic Structure”

Retail stands as a cornerstone of the UK’s socio-economic landscape, contributing 5% to the nation’s GDP. As the largest private sector employer, it sustains 3 million direct employment opportunities and supports an additional 2.7 million jobs within its supply chain. Its widespread presence is felt in every village, town, and city throughout the UK.


“The BRC Retail Crime Survey Report”

The BRC survey stands as the most extensive and dependable measure of UK retail crime trends.

Spanning from 1st September 2022 to 31st August 2023, the BRC survey precedes the implementation of the government’s Retail Crime Action Plan.

Consequently, any potential benefits from this initiative on incident reduction or enhanced police effectiveness will only be observable in next year’s survey findings. Despite a slight adjustment in the reporting period for enhanced relevance, this survey still offers a comprehensive 12-month overview, allowing for direct comparison with data from the previous year.

The crime survey reveals a significant surge in violence and abuse, mirroring the peak levels seen during the pandemic with close to half a million incidents annually. Additionally, it highlights a substantial rise in customer theft, nearing £2 billion, alongside a prevailing dissatisfaction with police response—60% deem it poor or very poor—and an ongoing increase in cyber crime.

The effect of violence and abuse on the well-being of retail employees

In 2022-23, the daily count of violent or abusive episodes in retail surged to just over 1,300, a significant increase from nearly 870. The year saw a total of 475,000 incidents, up from 316,000, with violent episodes alone reaching 41,000 – averaging more than 100 per day.

A significant concern among retailers regarding the escalating levels of violence and abuse, mirroring the unprecedented figures observed during the pandemic lockdowns. Throughout the year, retail staff encountered 475,000 instances of violence or abuse, indicating the profound and lasting impact such incidents can have on employees.

  • Daily incidents of violence and abuse surged to more than 1,300 (totalling over 475,000 for the year) in 2022-23, a rise from 867 the previous year, and equalling the peak pandemic levels. This marks a near triple increase from the pre-pandemic figure of 450 in 2019-20, evidencing a consistent upward trend across successive surveys.
  • Out of the total incidents, there were 113 violent occurrences each day (41,000 annually), a slight decrease from the prior year’s 145 daily incidents but comparable to pre-pandemic numbers. Notably, 8,800 of these violent incidents resulted in injuries.
  • A significant rise was noted in abuse cases, now at 434,000 incidents for 2022-23 or 1,190 daily, a substantial increase from 340 daily incidents before the pandemic.
  • Only about a third (36%) (171,000) of violence and abuse incidents were reported to the police, and merely 8% (38,000) led to prosecutions, with 19,000 resulting in convictions. The predominant reasons for not reporting included a lack of belief in any positive outcome and insufficient staff time. Before 2021-22, over 50% of incidents were reported, though even fewer led to prosecutions.
  • An increase in violence and abuse incidents was reported across all locations, with 87% noting a rise in inner cities and town centres, 65% in shopping centres, and 81% in retail parks and out-of-town shops.
  • Additionally, 1.07 million incidents of anti-social behaviour were recorded, equating to over 2,930 daily incidents.


The financial burden of crime and its prevention, both digitally and within physical stores, impacts retail businesses directly and their customers indirectly

The financial impact of retail crime has escalated dramatically, with customer theft incidents doubling to 16.7 million annually, rising from 8 million. This surge has led to an unprecedented cost of £1.8 billion, marking the first instance of exceeding the £1 billion threshold. Coupled with expenses on crime prevention, the total cost of retail crime has reached £3.3 billion. Such significant losses, amidst already narrow industry margins, divert funds away from potential investments in lowering prices or enhancing store experiences, ultimately burdening everyone with the cost of crime.

  • The combined financial toll of crime and its prevention surged to £3.3 billion from £1.8 billion the previous year, reflecting:
    • An increase in crime prevention costs to £1.2 billion from £720 million, and a direct loss from crime rising to £2.15 billion from £1.05 billion.
    • Customer theft alone accounted for £1.8 billion in losses across 16.7 million incidents (averaging 45,750 daily), a stark increase from £950 million and nearly 8 million incidents previously, highlighting a consistent upward trend.
  • Additionally, 53% of retailers observed a spike in online theft, with online fraud costs soaring over threefold to £99.7 million from £30 million.
  • Reports indicate a general disinterest from police in addressing online theft, further exacerbating the issue for retailers.


Police and Justice

Retailers’ faith in police response to crimes, including violence and abuse, has significantly dwindled. The absence of police intervention, skepticism regarding the consequences for offenders, and constraints on staff time have all contributed to a reluctance in reporting incidents.

  • A notable 61% of retailers rated the police response to retail crime as poor or very poor, with only 32% deeming it fair and a mere 6% considering it good.
  • This marks a downturn from the previous year, where 44% found the response lacking and 56% deemed it fair. This is the first instance since 2014-2015 where less than half rated the response positively, although larger retailers have consistently viewed the police response unfavorably.
  • Reports to the police of violence and abuse incidents slightly increased to 36% from last year’s 32%, yet this is a decrease from years past where over half were reported. A scant 8% of these reports led to prosecutions, with only 4% (19,000 out of 475,000) culminating in convictions.
  • The predominant reason for not reporting, cited by 55% of retailers, was a disbelief in any consequential action, with 87% listing it among their top two concerns. Other significant reasons included a lack of staff time (38% as a top two reason) and issues with the reporting system (58% as a top two reason).
  • In light of inadequate police action, retailers issued over 164,000 banning orders throughout the year to take matters into their own hands.


Reporting to the Police: A Diminishing Practice

The marginal increase in prosecution rates to 8% is a positive development, yet with over 40,000 incidents of violence annually, not to mention abuse, there’s a vast scope for enhancement. This shortfall in action is highlighted by 87% of retailers as a primary reason for their reluctance to report incidents, with reporting rates currently at a disheartening 36%.

It’s crucial for retailers to report every incident. Enhancing reporting rates is imperative, and it’s evident that a more robust police response and higher prosecution rates would significantly motivate reporting.

Factors Contributing to Increased Violence and Abuse:

  • Underreporting of incidents
  • Low prosecution rates
  • Inadequate police response
  • Insufficient police resources
  • The belief that minor crimes, often accompanied by violence or threats, will not receive police attention or appropriate sentencing
  • Increased boldness among gangs and individuals with addictions in committing retail crimes
  • A rise in anti-social behaviour both inside and in the vicinity of stores


Looking Forward: Key Threats Facing Retail

For retailers, the well-being of their employees stands as the paramount concern, surpassing financial worries, when considering the threats looming over the next two years.

Violence, Abuse, and Customer Theft Violence and abuse directed at retail staff emerge as the most significant threats, with an overwhelming 90% of retailers ranking these concerns within their top three. This issue has consistently been a major concern in past surveys, highlighting the industry-wide alarm it generates.

With the daily occurrence of violent and abusive incidents exceeding 1,300 and prosecution rates remaining low, there’s a pressing need for effective law enforcement intervention.

Furthermore, with customer theft reaching a record high of nearly £1.8 billion in losses, it’s no surprise that 74% of retailers also identify customer theft as one of their top three concerns.

You can download the FREE BRC report here

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