New Trafficking Ring Exploits Women and Children for Shoplifting

( – Eastern European gangs are reported to be trafficking hundreds of women and children to the United Kingdom as part of organized shoplifting.

The Retailers Against Crime (RAC) partnership is currently tracking the movements of more than 50 criminal gangs, many of whom have been linked to other organized crime, such as drugs offences and firearm offences. One gang, based in Glasgow, Scotland, has 154 shoplifters operating around the UK. Maxine Fraser, managing director for the RAC, described how girls as young as 12 had been shipped to the UK with the sole intent of having them steal for the gang.

Former police officer Adam Ratcliffe, who now oversees the Safer Business Network, said that many of the lower-ranking thieves in these organizations live in poor conditions, often sharing a house with up to 40 others and sleeping on dirty mattresses on the floor. According to Ratcliffe, the gangs primarily target small but expensive items such as cosmetics and fragrances, even stealing the keys to display cabinets in order to make their thieving easier.

They like to use women and children as they believe they are less likely to be viewed with suspicion by store staff. The impact on British retailers is immense, with the British Retail Consortium estimating losses of approximately $1.2 billion across the country in 2022 alone, with a 25% uptick in reported incidents.

One UK supermarket chain, Co-Op, claimed to have been the victim of 300,000 criminal incidents so far in 2023, an increase of more than 40% compared to the previous year. These incidents include shoplifting, physical assault, and anti-social behavior. Co-Op’s report also showed that in almost 80% of cases in which store staff have detained a suspect, the police failed to turn up at all.

Despite some perpetrators facing arrest and imprisonment, nearly two-thirds of store thefts are committed by repeat offenders. Many who are found guilty of the crime do not serve long sentences and are not deterred from re-entering a life of crime upon release, Maxine Fraser explained. One recent pair of shoplifters made headlines after being found guilty of stealing more than $37,000 of items from stores across the country. Despite the scale of their crime spree, 27-year-old Marian Oprescu was sentenced to just two years and three months imprisonment. His girlfriend, Alexandra Radu, 24, has had her sentencing deferred for a further six months.

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