A recent report has brought attention to the disturbing operations of Eastern European criminal groups exploiting vulnerable women and children for shoplifting activities across Britain, targeting luxury retail goods, such as perfumes, designer clothes, handbags and fashion items, watches and jewellery.
Uncovered by a Scottish company in collaboration with BBC File on 4, one prolific gang of over 150 organised shoplifters has been tracked since 2019, coordinating thefts of high-value goods to be resold or shipped abroad. Numerous arrests tied to this Glasgow-based gang have occurred in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Darlington, with the group travelling widely to commit crimes in luxury retail stores nationwide.
Retail associations report that children as young as 12 to 14 years old have shockingly been involved in these shoplifting schemes. Despite arrests, short prison sentences for individual offences allow this relentless cycle of exploitation to persist. Last year, British retailers faced £953 million in losses from shoplifting, a 25% increase largely driven by organised crime groups like those exposed.
Another dominant shoplifting gang centres specifically on targeting London cosmetics stores, trafficking vulnerable Eastern European women into the country to carry out thefts. These groups make strategic use of often young, female offenders, exploiting perceived innocence to enable crimes. Kept in squalid living conditions, the trafficked individuals themselves face distressing abuse purely for financial gain.
As Troy Hewitt, CEO of security services leader Assist Security Group (ASG), says, “Exploiting defenceless women and children in criminal schemes represents a shocking breach of human rights and dignity. As the trafficking and losses from organised shoplifting intensify, businesses must prioritise ethical operations while protecting staff.”
With shoplifting and theft costing UK retailers almost £1 billion yearly, implementing robust security strategies against organised crime has become crucial. As Hewitt advises, “Beyond financial impacts, organised shoplifting threatens employee safety and store environments. Adopting preventative measures through training, technology integrations and specialist partners can help mitigate risks.”
Through decades of experience securing sites from boutiques to hotel chains, ASG intimately understands the implications of organised crime for luxury retail and other businesses. Hewitt says, “By taking a holistic, consultative approach to understand each unique situation, ASG develops 360-degree security strategies aligned to our 6-Point Protection Framework of Planning, Prevention, Protection, Presentation, People and Partnerships.”
ASG’s Protect division, led by Jonathan Thomas, specialises in behavioural detection. His team is trained to identify signs of coercion or distress, including in young people who may be exploited in criminal activities.
Training is also provided to retail staff teams: “The strategy not only aids in crime prevention but also in protecting victims manipulated into these networks. It’s ASG’s commitment to comprehensive, empathetic security solutions,” says Thomas.
Whether facing external organised theft rings or internal risks from staff, ASG’s mission is to enable enterprises to operate securely through custom solutions. With specialised divisions and on-site guarding, CCTV monitoring, corporate intelligence and more, the focus is building trusted relationships to meet clients’ specific risks. As Hewitt concludes, “In today’s complex landscape, adapting intelligently to emerging challenges like organised shoplifting is critical to sustainable success.”
As exploitation through trafficking tragically continues supplying these prolific shoplifting gangs, businesses must respond decisively. With specialised experience securing luxury retail, estate management and events, ASG provides the expert consulting and protection needed now more than ever.
ASG’s services can address your unique risks, with solutions from manned guarding and electronic surveillance to actionable intelligence. Contact ASG to discuss securing your enterprise against intensifying criminal threats.