Map shows Kent’s worst areas for shoplifting as offences surge

A stock image of a man stealing alcohol from a store
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley)

Retailers have called for more protection for shop workers - as a new map shows the parts of Kent that have seen the biggest rise in shoplifting in the last year. Troubling figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting increased by 37 per cent in England and Wales last year, rising from around 315,000 crimes in 2022 to a record 430,000 offences.

In Kent, shoplifting increased by 23 per cent from 12,205 crimes in 2022 to 14,961 last year. But in some parts of the county, the rise was much steeper.

Home Office figures show that in Canterbury, police recorded 1,1217 offences in 2022, and 1,679 last year - a 50 per cent rise. That was the highest increase in Kent’s 12 police community partnership areas, which broadly match local authority areas.

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Dover was next with a 40 per cent rise from 517 offences to 769, and then Swale, where shoplifting rose by 47 per cent from 1,178 crimes to 1,728. Folkestone and Hythe was the only part of Kent where shoplifting fell, by 7 per cent from 582 crimes in 2022 to 540 last year.

You can see whether shoplifting is rising or falling where you live using our interactive map below:

Superintendent Pete Steenhuis, Head of Prevention at Kent Police, said: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime and we do not underestimate the damaging impact it has on many business owners. Every retail crime reported to Kent Police is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly based on the evidence available.

“Whilst the number of reported shoplifting offences increased by 23 per cent in Kent between 2022 and 2023, the force bucked the regional trend by also increasing the number of charges by 28 per cent from 2,422 to 3,106. A total of 229 cautions were issued and 665 incidents resulted in community resolutions.

“Kent Police’s success in tackling shoplifting can be partly attributed to its new neighbourhood policing model, which has led to an increase in officers within town centres and rural locations where shops are based. These officers know who the repeat offenders are, they regularly achieve positive outcomes against them and also give advice to business owners on how they can help to keep their stock secure.

“Retailers should continue to report all incidents to us by calling 999 in an emergency or if a crime is in progress. Non-urgent incidents can be reported online at .”

Pictures for the Clamp Down on Shoplifting campaign by the Mirror
Canterbury saw the largest increase of shoplifting offences in Kent -Credit:Andy Stenning/Daily Mirror

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has now called for more to be done to protect retailers, shoppers, and shop workers. The association, which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, said a survey of members revealed that more than a third (35 per cent) had experienced verbal abuse within their shops.

Bira says its research has shown that “incidents of physical abuse remain alarmingly high, with an increase in shopkeepers facing violence, including threats with weapons such as needles, knives, and even instances of hammers being thrown at them”. It says 70 per cent of retailers and their employees who were physically assaulted opted not to report the incidents to the police.

Bira’s marketing director, John Halliday, said: “The latest ONS crime figures paint a troubling picture for independent retailers and businesses across the UK. The 37 per cent increase in shoplifting highlights the significant challenges faced by our sector. Retail crime not only inflicts financial losses but also poses a grave threat to the safety and well-being of shop staff and customers.

“It's imperative that urgent action is taken to address this concerning trend and ensure the security of both businesses and their employees and customers. Bira has been trying to tackle this issue for a long time and will continue to work with the Home Office and police forces to better protect businesses, their owners, and people who work in the shop.”

Stock image of police
Retailers are calling for an increased police presence in shopping areas -Credit:Serge_Bertasius/Getty Images

Bira has now called for “immediate and decisive action” to combat retail crime, including increased police presence in retail areas, improved reporting mechanisms, and enhanced support for victims. In April, the government launched a new initiative aimed at tackling retail crime, which includes creating a standalone criminal offence for assaulting shop workers.

Assistant Chief Constable Alex Goss, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for retail crime, said shoplifting had a “devastating impact on businesses and communities”. He added: “Since the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan and Pegasus Partnership in late 2023, we’ve made significant progress in our policing response to shoplifting and it was encouraging to see much higher levels of confidence from retailers in policing at our recent roundtable.

“The recent proposed new standalone offence for assaults on retail workers demonstrates that violence will not be tolerated and we hope it will enable swift justice for those subject to this shocking and disturbing behaviour.” Mr Goss said a dip sample of 31 forces in December showed police attended 76 per cent of incidents where a shoplifter was detained and 60 per cent where violence had been used, with nearly one in five forces recording a 100 per cent attendance.

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