Cornwall England Aug 15 2018 Police have told shop workers to call the parents of young shoplifters instead of dialling 999 amid concerns that they are being swamped by emergency calls, it has been claimed.
A city centre security guard, based in Truro, Cornwall, said police advised him that those caught attempting to steal could not be detained for longer than 30 minutes, and that any theft of under £200 would probably not be dealt with.
He added that children and teenagers under the age of 18 should be released with parental consent once the stock was returned, rather than reporting the theft to police.
A Devon and Cornwall Police inspector admitted resources were “finite” and that shoplifting would be assessed as a “lower priority” during periods of high demand. A source also told The Daily Telegraph that there was an attitude within the police that juveniles should not be arrested for shoplifting.
The security guard’s claims are believed to have been made at a “Truro Safe” meeting, where licensed traders, taxi operators, the police, Truro City Council, Cornwall Council and others meet to discuss safety relating to local businesses and night-time economy.
The security worker, who wishes to remain anonymous said: “Police are no longer going to attend shoplifting arrests in stores. We have also been advised that we cannot detain anyone for longer than 30 minutes. But if anyone is under 18 we’ve been told we have to just get the stock back and release them, with parental consent.
“We were told we should only call the police if parents can’t be contacted. They said they wouldn’t attend if we had a shoplifter, and it would be down to us to deal with it.”
Devon and Cornwall Police said that there is no fixed value of goods that dictates whether the police respond to a shoplifting complaint, but rather the risk to the public.
Insp Rick Milburn said: “There is no policy, forcewide or locally, which dictates a shoplifting value that will determine if police do or do not attend.
“Resources at Truro are finite. To determine and prioritise our attendance, we need to carefully assess threat, risk to the public and potential harm. There will be occasions whereby we face very high demand. During these periods it is inevitable that some incidents will be assessed as a lower priority. Shoplifting per se, is not a low priority offence.”
According to the law, anyone caught shoplifting goods with a value under £200 can face up to six months in prison, while larger thefts can result in a jail term of up to seven years.
However, a police insider said that there was an expectation within Devon and Cornwall Police that under-18s would not be detained for shoplifting.