He said shoplifting had become more organised and more violent, and he called for changes in the law to crack down on the scourge.
David McKelvey, a former detective chief inspector in the Met Police, now runs TM Eye, a private security company that works across the country.
As it was revealed that shoplifting now costs retailers £1billion a year, he said: “It’s out of control.
“Shoplifting has significantly increased this year, along with concerning violence against shop staff, which has doubled in a year.”
Mr McKelvey’s private security firm has a team dedicated to retail crime and can bring about private prosecutions. He said that the involvement of dedicated crooks is now a crucial factor.
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“People we see shoplifting are organised criminal gangs or those with drug or alcohol addictions. On gangs, just last week we dealt with a woman who had taken goods across numerous stores worth thousands of pounds.
“She loaded the goods from each store into her £60,000 Range Rover parked outside as she went from shop to shop. These are not people stealing to eat in the cost-of-living crisis. These are people who are stealing because they can, and because it’s profitable.
“This woman was probably stealing on a daily basis. The boot of the Range Rover was full of stolen goods.”
Mr McKelvey, above, features in a Channel 5 show this week on the theft epidemic. He said: “Offenders have become aware it is easier to steal from a shop. The chances of getting caught and prosecuted have fallen dramatically. You’ve also got this issue of the £200 threshold the Government put on stolen items. Anything stolen under that amount is treated as a summary offence. The message was sent out that ‘We’re not too fussed about shoplifting under £200’.
“Shoplifters realise they can steal up to £200 and there is almost zero chance of getting caught and prosecuted. That law should be revoked.”
Yet Mr McKelvey is optimistic crime rates can come down if thieves see others being prosecuted. “We’ve proven this can be stopped. If you look at somewhere like Romford, in east London, where we started a couple of months ago, shoplifting was out of control there.
“It’s now very much under control and most of it is now a safe area. That’s just by reinforcing the law – catching and convicting shoplifters. It sends a very strong message – if you commit offences, you are potentially going to end up in prison.”
At the Tory Party conference last month, policing minister Chris Philp suggested that the public should tackle shoplifters and make a citizen’s arrest. But Mr McKelvey disagrees.“We had a situation a couple of weeks ago where we detained a man who had threatened a security guard.
“He became extremely violent – it took three police officers plus four of our guys to detain him. Seven people. If you get involved in detaining a shoplifter, there is a risk of weapons.
“And sometimes the police response isn’t quick enough. You could end up struggling with a violent shoplifter for up to two hours. It’s not viable.”
- Shoplifting: Stripping The Shelves, Channel 5 from tomorrow, 10pm; Shoplifting: Caught Red Handed, Channel 5, Tues/Wednesday, 7pm
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