Home secretary Priti Patel has slammed the police’s response to cash & carry crime and said they must do more to tackle the issue.
Patel’s comments came during a visit to Costco in Chingford on 11 June, where she met with wholesale representatives and local MP Iain Duncan Smith to discuss crime.
The meeting addressed the issue of robberies at cash & carry depots, in which organised crime gangs typically target retailers as they are leaving the site. Such robberies take place up to five times a week, and the goods stolen, typically tobacco or other high-value products, have an average street value of £5k, according to the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.
“I grew up in the retail world and I’ve seen the effect of having your stock stolen,” Patel told the meeting. ”Theft of high-value products like tobacco can decimate a business. They can destroy cashflow, and the goodwill of the business as well.”
She added: “The police have to do more. They have to come down to wholesale outlets and work with wholesalers to make sure gangs are absolutely not preying on their customers.
“It’s important not only that we highlight the whole issue of wholesale crime, but actually that we work with police to ensure they work with wholesalers and retailers to stop this level of crime taking place.”
Patel committed to tell borough commanders: “It’s not good enough and we need police action.”
She added: “If they don’t so something about it, they will answer to me.”
The FWD said its members’ feedback was that police “do not give these crimes sufficient attention or appreciate the size of the loss involved, and have a poor attitude to wholesale crime”.
Wholesalers had taken a number of measures to address these incidents, with investment in CCTV, number plate recognition cameras, security patrols and posters warning visitors not to leave stock or personal belongings unattended in vehicles, it added.
“Police response to thefts and robberies from customers in cash & carry car parks has been appalling,” said FWD CEO James Bielby. “In many cases, officers have refused to even attend incidents, let alone investigate them. This is not shoplifting, it is organised crime.
”Increasingly, the criminals will use or threaten violence. Where wholesalers have put in security measures to protect their customers, the criminals have followed vehicles off the premises and attacked them in transit.”
Bielby added: “It’s not right that small shop owners should be put at physical or financial risk because the police ignore these thefts and robberies. We have asked the home secretary to urgently instruct police forces to give greater priority to apprehending and prosecuting the criminals who do this.”