More people in the U.K. are shoplifting food and selling it on the black market
01/03/2024 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

The United Kingdom's ongoing cost of living crisis is fueling a surge in shoplifting – and many more Britons are selling the food they steal on the black market.

This is according to official data coming from the British Retail Consortium, which showed that retail thefts cost British retailers over a billion pounds ($1.26 billion) in 2023. Meanwhile, data from the British Home Office notes that shoplifting has reached the highest levels ever recorded, while the number of unresolved retail theft incidents has also skyrocketed. (Related: Study: About 2M low-income British households resort to unplugging refrigerators due to soaring electricity bills.)

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association, noted that the country's cost of living crisis has made people "think of alternative ways of sourcing items that are essential to them." He pointed out how many shops big and small that had not faced major levels of shoplifting in the past were now reporting serious incidents, including thieves clearing out whole shelves in seconds.

"I think that's because the black market has gotten so much bigger," Goodacre added.

Emmeline Taylor, a professor of criminology and an expert in shoplifting at City, University of London, noted that the cost of living crisis is making more and more consumers willing to "turn a blind eye" to purchasing stolen food.

"I don't think hardworking people who are now finding themselves in poverty are suddenly turning into criminals overnight. I think it's more complicated than that," said Taylor. "A lot of people are more willing to buy stolen goods than to actually shoplift themselves because they're one step removed from it."

Food prices in Britain have skyrocketed amid cost of living crisis

Member of Parliament Wendy Chamberlain of the British political party the Liberal Democrats, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ending the Need for Food Banks believes it was "not surprising" that more people are obtaining food through criminal means.

Chamberlain said important nutritional foods have "essentially rocketed in price" and that food poverty could be particularly acute during the winter months, with food banks providing only essential foods that are generally "not particularly attractive or nutritional."

"When money is tight, when they've spent a long time saying 'no' to other family members, the opportunity to buy something a bit more premium and high end with 'ask no questions' and 'off the back of a lorry,' as it were, is appealing," said Chamberlain.

Detective Chief Superintended Jim Tayor, head of Opal, the U.K.'s national intelligence unit for organized acquisitive crime, noted that it is very common for "community crime" to surge during a cost of living crisis that involves high inflation and high unemployment.

"What we're trying to do here is be ahead of the curve. We know that crimes like this are increasing and actually we know that it's the organized element to it," said Taylor. He noted that Opal's main goal will be to target organized crime gangs whose primary strategy is targeting retailers.

A spokesperson for the British government noted that police should be taking "a zero-tolerance approach" to shoplifting.

"We support millions of people every year to get the benefits they are entitled to, including providing advances to those who need immediate help, and to help people struggling with the cost of living are delivering an additional 3,700 pounds [$4,700] on average per household," claimed the spokesperson.

Watch this clip from The First as Bill O'Reilly discusses how businesses in America are losing billions due to the massive wave of shoplifting.

This video is from the NewsClips channel on

More related stories:

Retailers across state of New York losing $12M daily to RETAIL THEFT.

Dallas, Los Angeles see largest increases in shoplifting as U.S. economy falters.

Shoppers forced to wait up to 40 minutes to buy basic essentials as major retailers LOCK UP goods to combat shoplifting.

Thousands of Britons take to the streets to protest against rising inflation and cost of living.

Nonprofit warns: Brits' food bank dependency goes beyond cost-of-living crisis.

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