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Hidden Crimes Behind Shoplifting

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

It is easy for businesses to dismiss a low-value shoplifting offence as ‘too small to worry about’. When such an incident relates to young people, staff are often even more reluctant to report the incident to the police; they may assume the offence is just a ‘bad decision’ or worry that police involvement will negatively affect a young person’s future.


Safer Business Network is supporting the Children’s Society’s #LookCloser campaign and working to upskill all of our business members in recognising the signs that a young person might be being groomed, trafficked or coerced into committing offences. In the case of an incident in Lewisham, this knowledge was critical in safeguarding two young girls from exploitation.


Undercover security officers stopped three young people after they attempted theft of goods worth £15.00 in a business member premises. One of our BCRP managers attended and immediately raised concern that the incident could be more serious than just shoplifting – one of the young females was reluctant to look up at staff while being asked questions – and this suspicion led to the police being called.


After checking the names and personal details of the young people involved, it transpired that the two young females were reported missing people from outside of London. The male, who originally claimed he was underage, was discovered to be over 18 and known to police for a variety of offences. Eventually, he was arrested and charged with child abduction.


Modern slavery, county lines and sexual exploitation are severe crimes that are often incredibly difficult to detect – signs of exploitation aren’t obvious, and young people may not ‘appear vulnerable’ or ‘act like a victim’. However, vigilant and diligent work from our BCRP staff and partners protected two young people from further risk and led to the arrest of a serious criminal. Safer Business Network will continue to provide training and resources to all of our business members to ensure that more great results like this can be achieved.

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