The shoplifting epidemic is a sign that Britain is on the verge of anarchy

During the pandemic, you weren’t allowed to enter a supermarket without a mask. These days, of course, there’s no need for that. Instead, you need a stab vest, a riot shield and a bulletproof helmet, claims an author in ‘The Telegraph’.

Alright, so that’s possibly an exaggeration. But not by much. Our supermarkets really do seem perilously close to anarchy. Shoplifting is surging – and staff are terrified.

It’s got so bad that Tesco is getting staff to wear body-cams, to help catch shoplifters who assault them. This is more and more common: incidents of violent behaviour towards retail employees have doubled since before the pandemic. Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, has started carrying out bag searches at its self-service tills.

Other shops have taken to keeping their goods under lock and key. Dunelm, the home furnishing chain, has even started locking up its pillowcases. Seriously. What kind of person shoplifts a pillowcase? It’s possible to feel sympathy with a poverty-stricken mother who steals a loaf of bread to feed her starving children. But starving children, on the whole, tend not to be in such desperate need of Egyptian silk bed linen.

If anything, though, the crisis is worst for corner shops. The head of the Association of Convenience Stores says he’s heard reports of staff being threatened with hammers, knives and dirty needles.

When you can’t even pop out for a pint of milk without fighting your way through legions of heavily armed shoplifters, it’s reasonably clear that society has taken a wrong turn somewhere. We need to take this ever-growing problem more seriously. And we need to be clear why it’s happening.

Last month a court issued a community order against a shoplifter who’d stolen over £1,000 of items from a branch of Wilko. At first I almost felt sorry for the shoplifter. I mean, if you’re going to steal, why not steal from somewhere high-end, like Harrods or Fortnum & Mason. Treat yourself. Stealing things that are ultra-cheap in the first place suggests you’ve got appallingly low self-esteem. You shouldn’t be in prison, you should be in therapy.

But of course we shouldn’t be so frivolous. Overwhelmingly, the people behind this epidemic of shoplifting are not stealing for themselves. They’re not stealing to survive. They’re members of highly organised gangs, who are stealing to sell on the black market. And if shop staff dare intervene, they’ll almost certainly regret it.

If only the police would do something. This week, however, the chairman of Asda said shoplifting has in effect become “decriminalised”, because officers have got “other things to do”.

Still, bosses at Waitrose and John Lewis have had a brainwave. They’re offering free tea and coffee to police officers, in order to lure them into the store – and thus deter shoplifters.

What a good idea. Perhaps the rest of us should try something like that. Next time you have a break-in, and the police say they don’t have time to look into it, offer them a free box of Krispy Kremes to sweeten the deal.

A high street giant has been forced to lock duvets and pillowcases in pin-protected cabinets as cases of shoplifting soar. Dunelm is taking drastic action over shoplifting at its UK stores, informs ‘Birmingham Mail’.

Dunelm is locking up its duvets and pillowcases in pin-protected cabinets. One shopper in Dorset told the Sun: “I nipped into Dunelm and I couldn’t believe my eyes. All of the shop’s Dorma duvet covers and pillow cases were locked away.”

Shops now display posher bedding sets in giant glass cupboards with keypads. Homeware giant Dunelm confirmed the tactic is in place in roughly half of their 177 UK stores.

It comes as police should have a zero tolerance approach to shoplifting, and investigate even if the stolen goods are worth less than £200, the policing minister said. Chris Philp told The Daily Telegraph forces must look into every crime where there is CCTV footage.

Mr Philp said, of thefts worth under £200: “The law says that this is still a criminal offence and police should be enforcing it comprehensively.” He described shoplifting as affecting large and small businesses up and down the country, and often entailing violence or threats to retail workers.