A victim-centred approach to retail crime: Conference highlights

Published: Friday, February 9th, 2024

This is a blog by our Communications and Campaigns Manager, Keeva Baxter.


On Tuesday, 6th of February, Why me? hosted a unique event, bringing together representatives from the retail sector, the restorative sector and key decision-makers to discuss how Restorative Justice can be used to address the harm caused by retail crime. 

Retail crime is on the rise. From shoplifting to abuse of staff, retail crime is a prominent issue across the UK. While they are often seen as victimless, retail crimes can have long-lasting effects for retailers, staff and shop-owners. We know from our work in Torquay last year that many retail staff are left reluctant to go back to work, feeling unsafe and living in fear that they will be targeted again. For people who commit retail crimes, they may want the chance to explain their actions and make amends for the harm they have caused.

Restorative Justice can help. By giving retailers the chance to explain the impact of the crimes on their livelihood, and giving those who have committed retail crimes the chance to understand and make amends, it can enable everyone involved to move on. 

Introducing the event, Sussex PCC, Katy Bourne, shared her support for Restorative Justice and expressed how important it is to protect retailers who play such a crucial role in our communities. She stated that they deserve a ‘gold-plated’ response to crime from the police and encouraged other decision-makers across the country to consider the benefits of Restorative Justice. As a champion of Restorative Justice, Katy has worked hard to ensure that restorative services are available to residents in her area. We also played a video message from the Policing Minister, Chris Philp, who shared his determination to address retail crime and encouraged the use of Restorative Justice in these cases. It was heartening to receive the Minister’s support and hear his commitments to reducing retail crime. 

One of the most powerful segments of the conference was the testimony of three people who have lived experience of retail crime. Two of these people had previously committed retail crimes, and they shared their journeys from realising the impact of their actions, changing their path, and now working with retailers and police to prevent further retail crimes. One of the most pertinent points they made was about the misconceptions they previously held about the impact of retail crimes, believing that none of the staff would be affected and that the retailer would just be able to claim the cost of the loss on their insurance. It was only by speaking to the retailers that they could understand that this was not the case, leading them to change their behaviour. 

They also emphasised the importance of empathy and communication, calling on police and Restorative Justice practitioners to “find out the why” and understand why people are committing retail crimes in the first place; “compassion can go such a long way.”

Our final testimony was from Tami, a small business owner from Canada whose bakery wall had been vandalised, covering up a beloved community mural. In the video below, she shares how the crime impacted her and how it felt to meet the people who had vandalised the wall in a Restorative Justice meeting. 

As part of the conference, we also gathered the views of attendees as to what the main barriers are to using Restorative Justice in cases of retail crime, and how they can be overcome. We will share these findings with you shortly in order to help improve the provision of restorative work in this area.

At the end of the meeting, we shared a page of resources which can be read and distributed by those wanting to use Restorative Justice to address retail crime in their area.

Click here to see the resources

We are really pleased that so many people attended the event and demonstrated their enthusiasm about using Restorative Justice for retail crime. Thank you to all those who contributed and those who attended the event. We will continue to keep you updated on our groundbreaking work in this area. 

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