Readers of the Carmarthen Journal will have seen the cost of crime recently. The paper’s new court pages review local court proceedings. They describe the crimes, the offenders and the victims. They show who pays the cost of crime.
A woman from the Teifi valley recently pleaded guilty to stealing money from someone’s bag on the bus to Lampeter. She will pay the price with a 12 month conditional discharge and £580 of fees and costs. The victim will pay the price with a loss of property and, no doubt, a feeling of being less safe. We will pay the cost of the court case and policing. The answer is, crime costs us all.
I had a similar reminder on one of my ‘Your Voice’ days, when I get out to meet the public and hear their concerns. I visited an retail store to discuss theft. The store belonged to an independent retailer. He built the business, bought the stock, employed the staff and took the risks.
Nothing about this shop suggested it would suffer from theft. It was in a low crime area – aren’t we all in Dyfed Powys? It was a substantial store, well staffed and equipped with CCTV.
Then the owner explained the business. He turned over a few million pounds worth of stock each year. He employed about 50 staff, on shifts to keep the business open at convenient times for customers. The shelves held thousands of product lines.
As became clear, the figures may be large but the margins are tiny. You survive in this line of work by making a little bit of money on a lot of products. That means small losses make a big difference. It also means picking up ‘petty’ theft is hard, like finding a £1 needle in a £100,000 haystack.
Last year they found a lot of needles. At the end of the year their stock was missing £25,000 worth of products. That is the cost of ‘petty’ crime for this business. It could employ another person with that money.
Each one of the crimes that make up the £25,000 could easily be dismissed as ‘minor’, but together they put this business – and all 50 people it employs – on a knife edge.
We all bear the cost of crime, which is why we must all play a part in tackling it.
We know 10% of crimes reported to the police here are registered against a business address. We know about 250 frauds are reported each month, with an average value of £300. But we don’t know much more.
That’s why I’m about to ask businesses, small and large, across Dyfed Powys about their experience of crime.
That’s why Dyfed Powys Police support shopwatch schemes and work so hard to investigate every crime, unlike other forces in the country.
That’s why I’m determined to prioritise frontline officers. We have more of them now, spending more time on our streets than when I was elected. I’ll be fighting to keep it that way in the PCC elections in May 2016.
Crime costs us all. It raises business costs, like insurance and security. It damages people’s confidence in public places, like buses. It drains taxpayers money away from other needs, like healthcare or schools.
Safe businesses are the bedrock of a safe society. Business crime has long been hidden. I hope we can bring it out of the shadows.