The UK’s cost-of-living crisis is fueling a surge in shoplifting, according to a report published on Thursday by the British Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
ACS data showed that more than 1.1 million incidents of theft were recorded at stores across the country over the past year – the highest level in a decade, and up from 970,000 the year before. The most commonly stolen items were meat, alcohol and sweets, which are typically considered high value items that can be resold.
James Lowman, chief executive of ACS, said the levels of theft happening daily were “unprecedented.”
“Repeat offenders, known to the community and known to the police, are stealing without fear of reproach,” he claimed.
ACS, which represents small stores across Britain, estimated that shoplifting has cost retailers £125 million ($159 million) over the past year, which is about £2,574 per store.
Some retailers noted that theft rates were partly affected by an increase in gang activity and people with addictions stealing to fund their drug or alcohol habits. However, 79% of those surveyed said they believe that the cost-of-living crisis is the main driver behind the surge in theft, as a growing number of people are struggling to afford basic items while prices continue to rise.
The report by ACS came after official figures released on Wednesday showed that UK inflation in May stood at 8.7%. That was unchanged since April, when it fell to single digits for the first time since last summer.
Grocery price inflation dropped from a 45-year-high of 19.1% in April to 18.3% last month, although the cost of food itself in UK stores still rose 0.9% in May alone.
According to a recent forecast from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK will have one of the highest inflation rates of any major developed economy this year.
The ACS survey was conducted between February 13 and March 31. The calculations were based on crimes faced by retailers over the previous 12 months.
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