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Shoplifting hotspots in north London go unchecked as police screen out ‘low-value’ crimes

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 January 2020

Businesses in Hampstead have called police more than 200 times about opportunist thieves in two years. Picture: Ken Mears

Businesses in Hampstead have called police more than 200 times about opportunist thieves in two years. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Just 16 per cent of thieves targeting businesses in north London are being brought to book as police say they are prioritising “serious” crime.

According to Met Police data businesses in Camden, Brent, Haringey and Westminster reported 25,270 shoplifting incidents since January 2017.

Of these, 21,292 - or 84 per cent - were either closed with no suspect identified, are still under investigation or have not been updated since the original crime report.

Police said they have had to drop "non-serious" crimes as a result of financial pressures and increased demand.

A spokeswoman said: "The Met is under various pressures including financial challenges and increasing demand. As a result we are having to take decisions about how we prioritise our resources.

Dozens of shoplifting offences have been reported on or around Muswell Hill Broadway. Picture: Google StreetviewDozens of shoplifting offences have been reported on or around Muswell Hill Broadway. Picture: Google Streetview

"Homicide, kidnap, sexual offences or domestic violence and other serious offences will continue to be fully investigated.

"[But] with the pressure on our resources it is not proportionate for our officers to spend a considerable amount of time looking into a low-value theft offence."

Across north London just 405 perpetrators have been sent to prison for shoplifting since January 2017. Another 154 were handed suspended sentences and 218 received community sentences.

A further 421 offenders were cautioned and 185 were given a penalty notice.

Marcos Gold, BID Manager at Hampstead Village BID, said it was positive so many incidents were being reported. Picture: Polly HancockMarcos Gold, BID Manager at Hampstead Village BID, said it was positive so many incidents were being reported. Picture: Polly Hancock

Marcos Gold, manager of Hampstead Business Improvement District, said: "It is great to see high levels of reported crime. It shows a confidence to let the police know, no matter what the value of the crime.

"But more reported crime also means more pressure on the police and not everything is going to be solved."

Shiva Tiwari, Camden Councillor for West Hampstead, said: "We work very hard with police to identify problem areas and focus on those.

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"But just like local authorities the police have seen their budgets cut terribly by this Tory government and a consequence of that is any uptick in crime."

Police location mapping makes it difficult to establish a total count of crimes committed in one street.

There were 232 crimes reported in Hampstead Town of which 32 crimes were logged as having taken place in Hampstead High Street, and 48 in West End Lane. But scores more crimes were recorded in the roads surrounding them.

A total of 130 incidents were reported in Muswell Hill, as well as 110 in Belsize Park and 153 in St Pancras, of which the vast majority again went unsolved.

The M&S in Pond Street has reported losing thousands of pounds a week to thieves. Picture: Harry TaylorThe M&S in Pond Street has reported losing thousands of pounds a week to thieves. Picture: Harry Taylor

Keith Moffitt, a decades-long West Hampstead resident and former leader of Camden Council, said the figures in his borough were "shocking".

He added: "Shopkeepers sadly regard shoplifting as inevitable and unfortunately have to factor it into their pricing.

"Equally, the police, who are clearly very stretched, probably don't view it as a priority if the items involved are small - but the cumulative impact is obviously significant."

Earlier this month it emerged that nearly half of all crimes reported to the Metropolitan Police - or 1,114 crimes a day - were being closed within 24 hours under the force's new General Investigations Police, which 'screens' out crimes deemed to be low-level - including shoplifting.

Cllr Keith Moffitt said the figures for Camden were Cllr Keith Moffitt said the figures for Camden were "shocking". Picture: Polly Hancock

On Thursday, December 5 a Christmas tree vendor at the Woodman pub, Highgate Station reported that a gang had broken in and stolen £4,000 worth of Nordman firs.

The incident was closed on the same day, with officers citing a lack of evidence they could act on.

In October this year business groups heard the Marks & Spencer food store near the Royal Free Hospital could be losing £4,000 a week to opportunist thieves. The store said it reports all thefts to police.

The Met spokeswoman said: "We believe using this policy is the right thing to do. We need our officers to be focused on serious crime and cases where there is a realistic chance that we will be able to solve it.

"We also want them to be available to respond to emergencies and go to those members of the public that need our help the most."

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