The Curmudgeon


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Future of Law Enforcement

Citizens Advice, which no doubt will soon go the way of all those other unnecessary quangos which have sought to dilute the market's cleansing rampancy, reports that high street stores are using private security firms to extort large sums of money from petty offenders. The largest such firm, Retail Loss Prevention Limited, also likes to tell shoplifters, often teenagers, that they have been put on an electronic blacklist which is available to employers. Some people are coerced into giving their contact details and are subsequently treated to threatening letters and telephone calls.

These delightful practices, known by the vintage Blairspeak term "civil recovery", have come in for a bit of criticism from the woolly liberals at Citizens Advice. The chief executive claimed cynically that "It would appear that the principal beneficiaries, in cases of low-value alleged theft, are the agents. They collectively profit by millions of pounds but have no obvious interest in a reduction of retail crime".

A spokesbeing for Tesco's responded robustly that "The only people that lose out are the people who have stolen; if people don't steal they won't have a problem". The director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium claimed that "Retail crime costs £1.1bn a year", or just under a third of the profits made by Tesco's alone in twelve months, and that "ultimately much of that is reflected in shop prices". Therefore, the reasoning goes, hired vigilantes are a vital protection for innocent consumers at a time when the police are so under-manned that they can't even protect two of Daveybloke's elderly relatives from nearly being lynched by student sans-culottes.

Assuming for charity's sake that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from the likes of RLP, the question is still open whether it is legal for a high street shop to demand, without the intervention of a court, three-figure fines for items which in most cases were worth less than £20 and which in four-fifths of the cases were recovered and put back on sale. Even granting the currently fashionable assumption that offenders have, or ought to have, no legal rights at all, in these straitened times such practices may tend to leave a certain vague but lingering impression of bad public relations.


  • At 7:15 pm , Anonymous Madame X said...

    Theft is occurring, it's just not by the ones being punished.

  • At 11:48 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hogwash! This isn't theft, it's simply redistribution of inventory

  • At 8:56 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Let's extract money and threaten our shoplifting teenagers. That's sure to help educate and socialise them in the ways of the narrow minded world they live in.! I'm glad I'm not a teenager anymore. To my shame I used to pocket the odd thing then, (actually mary quant nail varmish almost exclusively!!) goodness knows what would have happened if I'd been "Blacklisted" at 13! Slippery slope avoided luckily!!


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