Home Office launches facial recognition action plan to tackle shoplifting

24/10/2023 | UK Government

The UK Home Office has launched the Retail Crime Action Plan (RCAP) to tackle shoplifting. The plan includes a commitment from the police to prioritise attending the scene of shoplifting incidents involving violence against shop workers or where security guards have detained an offender. Police will also step up targeted hotspot patrols in badly affected areas and follow up on evidence to catch offenders.

Retailers have been advised to send CCTV footage and images of the shoplifter to the police as quickly as possible after an offence has been committed. Upon receiving CCTV footage and other digital images, police will cross-match against the Police National Database using retrospective facial recognition technology to identify and prosecute offenders.

The plan includes the creation of a new police team called Pegasus, which will work on building a comprehensive intelligence picture of organised crime gangs that fuel shoplifting incidents across the country. While the Home Office has approved the plan, several leading retailers, including John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots, and Primark, have collectively pledged over £840,000 to get the initiative off the ground. The majority of funding for Pegasus will go towards the creation of a dedicated team of specialist analysts and intelligence officers to work within OPAL, the national policing team overseeing intelligence on serious organised acquisitive crime.

Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, Chris Philp said: "I want a new zero-tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting. It is a blight on our high streets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change... While it is encouraging to see a 29% increase in charges for shoplifting in the past year, the rise in offending is unacceptable and there is much more to do to stop it happening in the first place."

Following the announcement, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) published a blog advising how retailers can share criminal offence data, including images to prevent or detect crime with security guards, managers of other stores in the vicinity, the police or other relevant law enforcement agencies, providing that it is necessary and proportionate. 

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