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Viagra and contraceptive pills targeted amid shoplifting surge

6 October 2023, 10:19 | Updated: 6 October 2023, 10:34

Viagra targeted by thieves
Viagra targeted by thieves. Picture: Alamy

By Connor Hand

Viagra and contraceptive pills are the latest products to be targeted as cases of shop theft surge across the United Kingdom.

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Speaking exclusively to LBC, Professor Joshua Bamfield, Director of the Centre for Retail Research, outlined the attraction of the drugs, which are viewed as “top of the pops” by criminal gangs and individuals stealing from pharmacists.

Professor Bamfield said: “There are people who are stealing jars of Marmite, baked beans, chickpeas and so on... but most of the losses are actually seen in goods that are easy to resell. It’s things like fashion, footwear, health and beauty products and small electrical goods.”

However, he added that “expensive pharmacy” such as Viagra and contraceptive pills are of particular attraction owing to the products’ good price, homogeneity and significant demand, meaning that it is being “stolen for resale”.

Thieves are targeting pharmaceutical products
Thieves are targeting pharmaceutical products. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Make a citizen's arrest: The public should tackle shoplifters as police 'can't be everywhere,' minister says

Read More: Legislation won't solve shoplifting crisis without tougher action from cops, former policing minister tells LBC

According to the British Retail Consortium, the number of shop thefts occurring each year has doubled since 2020 - reaching 8 million incidents per year - with stolen goods costing retailers a combined £953m annually. Dame Sharon White, John Lewis’ outgoing chairwoman, has described shoplifting as an “epidemic”.

Accompanying the sharp rise in thefts has been the abuse suffered by employees. More than 850 incidents of violence or abuse against staff in 2022.

Earlier this week, almost 90 of the UK’s most prominent retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Primark, Boots and Superdrug penned a joint letter urging the government to crackdown on shoplifting.

Amongst their demands is a call for the introduction of new legislation which would make assaulting, threatening or abusing one of their workers a specific criminal offence - as is the case in Scotland.

The letter says: “[A] standalone offence would send an important signal that our colleagues will receive better protection in law and act as a deterrent to would-be offenders. This action should be taken without delay,” the letter says.

The industry leaders have requested a meeting with the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, having already met with Policing Minister Chris Philp, who has come under fire from Tesco boss, Ken Murphy, for suggesting that members of the public should attempt a citizen’s arrest if they witness shop theft.

In a rebuke to Mr Philp, the Tesco boss said: “While I applaud the sentiment of the Minister, we are really clear with our colleagues and customers that we would absolutely not want them to put themselves in harm’s way.”

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