Shoplifting is far from a victimless crime. It hurts businesses, which must grapple with higher costs as well as shoppers, who absorb the resulting higher prices. And when theft becomes pervasive, it gives an impression of lawlessness which is corrosive to the public good.
It is therefore welcome, if not also long overdue, that 10 of Britain’s largest retailers are coming together to fund a new police operation to crack down on shoplifting, as part of a wider effort to show zero tolerance towards this brazen crime. The partnership, Project Pegasus, will see the police process CCTV images of an offender through the national database, which includes facial recognition technology.
The numbers are staggering. In the 12 months to March, police recorded nearly 340,000 cases of shoplifting. Yet that may be just a drop in the ocean, given that the British Retail Consortium estimates there were eight million incidents, costing the industry almost £1 billion.
The shoplifter, in some people’s minds a person simply trying to feed their family, is more often part of an organised gang stealing high-value items. It is high time business and police fought back.
The Chinese threat
That nations spy on one another is not a surprise. But revelations that an alleged Chinese agent had been working at the heart of our parliamentary democracy ought to serve as a wake-up call for Britain.
Only this summer, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry concluded that China’s size, ambition and capability “have enabled it to successfully penetrate every sector of the UK’s economy”. And it is likely that the instance of the suspected spy, a parliamentary researcher with links to Conservative MPs Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, and Alicia Kearns, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is not unique.
Whether our universities, private business or the seat of power, we must take the threat of Chinese espionage more seriously.
Three staff to every guest, high-end sleeping quarters and fine dining restaurants — wealthy tourists coming to the capital have never had it so good. In what is being described as a “gold rush” of luxury hotel launches, thousands of new rooms are popping up in London to serve ultra-high net worth individuals.
The £1.1 billion Peninsula London in Belgravia launches tomorrow, soon to be followed by the £1.5 billion Raffles London at the OWO in the Old War Office building on Whitehall. With rooms starting at more than £1,000, it may not be for all. Still, these hotels represent a vote of confidence in London as a destination for travellers.