Shoplifting and abuse at independent shops are increasing due to the cost-of-living crisis and youths filming it for TikTok, forcing some businesses to close, it has been said.
Muntazir Dipoti, president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (FIR), which has 10,500 members, said 850 incidents of theft or verbal abuse are recorded every day.
Incidents have increased 25 per cent in the last year, he said, adding that one independent retailer died after suffering a heart attack when tackling shoplifters.
Another had to evacuate the premises as armed police were called to the business while between £70,000 and £100,000 worth of damage was caused inside.
Dipoti said due to the cost-of-living crisis people have gone from previously stealing more expensive items to everyday products such as tins of spam.
Members have seen a rise in youths filming themselves stealing from shops to post on social media websites such as TikTok.
FIR is calling on the government to give a grant of £1,500 to independent retailers to improve their security.
Dipoti said: “The majority of retailers have CCTV but their cameras might not be the latest technology, for example HD cameras.
“We feel £1,500 would suffice to get them where they need to be. Retailers would feel like they’ve been listened to and supported and it’ll give them that confidence.
“In the last six months we’ve had 30 or 40 shops close and they’re saying they can’t keep up with theft and with rising costs because of the cost-of-living crisis.”
Dipoti said shoplifters previously would steal more expensive items such as razors but are now turning to everyday items such as tins of spam or corned beef.
While young people have started stealing and filming it for social media sites such as TikTok, Dipoti said.
He said one of his members in Scotland tried to tackle teenagers who were stealing and verbally abusing him and suffered a heart attack.
Mr Dipoti added: “He died on the spot. The retailers feel so unsafe, we shouldn’t feel so unsafe. You do think ‘am I going to be coming back home tonight or not?’.
“My message is not to tackle them because it’s not worth it as you don’t know what they’re going to pull out.”
He added: “There’s just no trust in the police unfortunately because of the lack of response, they’ve not got the resources to turn up, the retailers have given up.”
In the West Midlands, a shopkeeper had to evacuate the shop and armed police were called as one person caused between £70,000 and £100,000 worth of damage, Dipoti said.
He said: “This guy walked into the shop, he was completely out of it, took his top off and opened a couple of wine bottles and started drinking it, then started throwing bottles.
“In 12 or 13 minutes he caused £70,000 to £100,000 worth of damage.”
Dame Sharon White, the boss of John Lewis, previously said shoplifting has become an “epidemic”, with incidents not always investigated by police.
John Lewis is among 10 of the UK’s biggest retailers which have agreed to fund a police operation to crack down on shoplifting, dubbed Project Pegasus.
The companies are expected to pay around £600,000 towards the project, which will utilise CCTV pictures and facial recognition technology to get a better understanding of shoplifting.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Shoplifting strikes at the heart of the British high street, and the Policing Minister has asked forces to take a zero tolerance approach to this crime.
“By enabling retailers to share better information on shoplifting with police forces and build up a national strategic picture, Project Pegasus will help crack down on criminal gangs across the country.”
Home Office minister Chris Philp said: “We have record police numbers and I expect them to help all retailers.
“This scheme will help all retailers, not just the big ones, as it will identify criminal gangs.”
Press Association – Jordan Reynolds