A police chief has been told she is undermining the “scale and seriousness” of retail crime after suggesting “prolific” shoplifters should be spared prison.
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Donna Jones said last week that locking up people with “200 shoplifting offences” would not stop them stealing again.
Instead, prison should be reserved for those who are “really violent and dangerous for longer”.
Retailers, unions and trade associations have spent months complaining that police routinely ignore abuse of shop staff.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), just 6 per cent of the daily 455 cases of retail violence are taken to court.
The Federation of Independent Retailers president Stuart Reddish said Jones’ comments were “utterly bewildering and completely out of touch with reality”.
“Apart from the financial impact that shoplifting has on businesses, such incidents often escalate and lead to verbal or physical attacks on shop owners and their staff,” he continued.
“The opinions expressed by Miss Jones completely undermine the work we are doing to highlight the scale and seriousness of these offences.”
Jones also appeared to encourage retailers to pay for criminals’ rehabilitation, noting how the Co-op had footed the bill for drug addicts who had committed hundreds of crimes.
Morrisons has also entered the scheme, while Sainsbury’s and Lidl are understood to be in talks to join.
“I would like to ask Miss Jones how she would react if someone walked into her home and started helping themselves to her possessions,” Reddish said.
“Would she simply send them on their merry way and offer to foot the bill for some kind of rehabilitation?”
Speaking to The Daily Mail, BRC business director Tom Ironside condemned Jones’ “irresponsible” suggestion that “shoplifting should not be treated seriously”.
In June, the Home Affairs Committee said the police should to take a “much stronger stance” on retail crime.
Research shows six in 10 convenience store workers are dissatisfied with the police’s response to repeat offenders in shops.