New map shows Surrey area where shoplifting has doubled in the last year

shoplifting - a woman steals a bottle of wine in a supermarket
Surrey Police say they are tackling shoplifting through a variety of measures -Credit:Getty

Retailers have called for more protection for shop workers - as a new crime map shows the part of Surrey that has seen a 100% rise in shoplifting in the last year.

Troubling figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting increased by 37% in England and Wales last year, rising from around 315,000 crimes in 2022 to a record 430,000 offences.

In Surrey, shoplifting increased by 36% from 3,756 crimes in 2022 to 5,094 in 2023. But in some parts of the county, the rise was much steeper.

Home Office figures show that in Epsom and Ewell, police recorded 178 offences in 2022, and 356 last year - a 100% rise. That was the highest increase in Surrey’s 11 police community partnership areas, which broadly match local authority areas.

Reigate and Banstead was next with a 64% rise from 418 offences to 684, and then Runnymede, where shoplifting rose by 57% from 214 crimes to 335.

Waverley was the only part of Surrey where shoplifting fell, by 7% from 365 crimes in 2022 to 341 last year.

And while Epsom and Ewell saw the largest rise in shoplifting, Guildford had the most offences in Surrey, a total of 1,095 last year.

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

Chief Inspector Andrew Hill, lead for business crime, said: “Crimes against retailers and their staff are unacceptable, and we have been working hard to improve our response to these offences and the quality of our investigations.

“We acknowledge that there has been an increase in offences being reported. Shoplifting was a previously under-reported offence, and more reporting is encouraged to be able to better deal with the issue."

Surrey Police has said that as of March 2024, their solved rate for the last 12 months (rolling) is 14.4%. Charges are 10.8%. This compares to a charge rate of 5% in July 2023 (for the previous 12 months), the force added.

Surrey Police say they are tackling shoplifting through a variety of measures, including but not limited to:

  • Uniformed and plain clothes patrols at shoplifting hotspot areas.

  • Working with shopkeepers to develop problem-solving in repeat offending locations.

  • Increasing physical attendance at shoplifting offences, particularly in cases where an offender is detained or violence has been used.

  • Ongoing review of new and recent shoplifting offences, including pursuing offenders where reasonable lines of enquiry exist.

  • Engaging with shop owners and shop workers to share security advice and gather evidence.

  • Increased intelligence work to identify trends, patterns, and prolific offenders.

“We are continually working to build on and improve the support offered to businesses around retail crime. We are also exploring opportunities to improve partnership working through shared intelligence, improved reporting, and signposting to crime prevention advice." Chief Inspector Andrew Hill added.

On a national scale, 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%) 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% 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% 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.”

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% of incidents where a shoplifter was detained and 60% where violence had been used, with nearly one in five forces recording a 100% attendance.