While you’d hope for it to be the most wonderful time of the year, the festive period can often bring with it challenging times, too. Whether that’s financial worries, family woes, or something else entirely, Christmas is sadly not always a festive fiesta. That’s especially true where crime is concerned.
Winter brings with it darker nights and less-than-favourable weather conditions – an ideal cover for criminals and trespassers. Similarly, the infamous Christmas crowds can offer the chance for pickpockets and shoplifters to slip through the net, and impact your profits at a crucial time of the year.
That’s something we’re always aware of here at Churchill Support Services. Over the course of our 27 years at the top of the security industry, we’ve ensured the safety of countless businesses over the festive period, and throughout the year. We’re also well-versed in how crime stacks up across the country, having ranked the most dangerous areas in England and Wales on a yearly basis.
With our latest article, we’ll be uncovering the truth about Christmas crime statistics, why they’re a massive concern for businesses from all sectors, and how you can most effectively mitigate against those issues.
We’ve taken the latest batch of data available from the Police Data repository (covering all of 2022), alongside independent data aggregators and sources, to ensure that we represent the rates of crime at Christmas fairly and objectively.
We’ll be using data from what’s known as the “golden quarter” for retailers – Q4 (October through to December) – as this gives the most accurate representation of the festive period, including the lead-up to Christmas, and the time when many businesses gear up for what’s set to be one of their busiest seasons of the year.
Let’s break down the key figures you need to know about Christmas crime, as well as what you can do to ensure the continued safety of your business.
Christmas is, without question, an expensive time for many. With presents to consider, lunches to plan, and decorations to decide upon, it’s a month where there’s likely to be significant and often unexpected expenses. That sadly means that many resort to shoplifting, with the last 3 months of the year seeing a hugely disproportionate amount of criminal activity.
The latest police data shows that 100,200 instances of shoplifting took place across England and Wales over the course of Quarter 4 in 2022. That’s a huge 24.7% increase over the previous quarter (July to September), and more than 17,900 offences higher than the next highest data (Q1 – January to March).
On a regional basis, London is the hardest hit by shoplifting over the Christmas period, with the Metropolitan Police reporting 12,705 offences in that time. They’re the unfortunate leaders by some margin, with West Yorkshire (5583 offences) and the West Midlands (5576 offences) taking second and third respectively.
While it’s often seen as the season of giving, Christmas for opportunistic thieves and criminals is also proving to be the season of taking, too. Aggregated data from the UK’s police forces shows a definitive rise in robbery of personal and business property over the festive period, with Q4 (19,849 incidents) seeing a sharp increase over the next highest quarter (Q3 – 18,802 incidents).
Of course, while that’s only a 5.6% increase, it’s one that’s likely to reverberate across the country, especially at a time where many of us have gifts under the tree, or expensive presents ready to hand out at family gatherings.
That’s especially true in London, with the Metropolitan Police reporting an alarming 7287 instances of robbery of personal property, in addition to 798 instances of business property robbery. The West Midlands takes second position with 2210 offences, alongside Greater Manchester in third with a concerning 1266 offences.
Christmas often brings with it a sense of showmanship and festive cheer, especially when it comes to lights and decorations. However, for some, this also presents the opportunity to cause disruption and damage to people’s property, meaning we see consistently high figures of criminal damage throughout the holiday season.
The latest data from the UK’s Police repository showed a distinct rise during Q4 (35,967 incidents) when compared to the previous 2 quarters (35,402 incidents in Q2, and 34,888 incidents in Q3). With much of these incidents happening under cover of darkness due to shorter days and longer nights, it’s perhaps no surprise that the winter months see a surge in criminal damages.
London sees the greatest rate of criminal damage to homes across the UK, with the final quarter of the year witnessing a startling 2715 incidents. Greater Manchester falls just 2% behind, with an equally concerning 2660 incidents, followed by West Yorkshire (2392 incidents) and the West Midlands (2132 incidents).
While retailers and the hospitality industry gear up for one of the most hectic times in their calendar, many other businesses are shutting down operations until the start of the new year. Although you’d assume these are polar opposites, they both share the same vulnerability to corporate burglary.
That’s most clearly reflected in the year-high figures we see in Q4, where there were 19,016 instances of business and community burglary, a rise of more than 2% when compared to the next highest quarter (Q1, with 18,629 incidents).
The capital London sees the unfortunate majority of these burglary issues, with the Metropolitan Police reporting a shocking 4450 offences. That’s more than the next three most dangerous regions combined, with the West Midlands (1093 offences), Greater Manchester (1038 offences) and West Yorkshire (1033 offences) seeing comparatively lower but no less concerning figures.
While you’d always hope you can trust your colleagues and members of staff, the holidays often present an opportunity for that to change. With stock turnover at an all-time high, and a rapid influx of customers and visitors, employee theft can often fly under the radar until it’s too late.
That’s something the latest statistics offer a more concrete confirmation of. The golden quarter sees an alarming 1666 instances of theft by an employee, and while the data doesn’t offer a more complete breakdown, the British Retail Consortium estimates that almost £40 million was lost due to employee theft over the course of 2021-22.
The lion’s share of those 1666 incidents of employee theft falls in the capital London, which saw 198 offences. Greater Manchester (118 offences), West Yorkshire (80 offences) and the Thames Valley (71 offences) all follow closely behind.
While we’ve already touched on how criminal damage is more prominent for homeowners during the holiday season, businesses are at equal risk of vandals and aggressive behaviour. That’s particularly relevant when you consider that many retailers have window displays and glittering lights, all of which offer a target for criminal damage.
Quarter 4 in 2022 saw a concerning 13,580 incidents of criminal damage, representing a 1.9% increase over Q3 (13,324 incidents) and a more substantial 2.4% increase (13,258 incidents) over Q2.
The Metropolitan Police reported an appalling 959 instances of criminal damage to buildings other than dwellings, all located in and around the London area. That’s closely followed by Greater Manchester (863 incidents), with Hampshire (689 incidents) and the Thames Valley (652 incidents) both causing similar levels of concern.
Similar to the increase we see in actual burglary, attempted business burglary also sees a distinct uptick over the festive season. This is for much the same reason as we’ve already discussed – there’s more scope for criminals to break into premises that are vacant, and the swarming seasonal crowds offer the slim window of opportunity that criminals seek out.
While it might seem reductive to include this stat in our list of Christmas crime statistics, the impact of attempted burglary is often understated, causing emotional distress, stress and often closures as businesses rebuild. Plus, with Q4 seeing 2714 instances of attempted burglary of a business or community premises, it’s vitally important to draw attention to it.
Unfortunately it’s yet again London that sees the bulk of the issue with attempted business burglary, with 416 offences recorded during Christmas last year. There’s also a clear and present danger across the West Midlands (203 offences) and West Yorkshire (171 offences), with Greater Manchester (141 offences) closely following.
It’s common knowledge at this point that the UK is going through an economic crisis. Wages aren’t rising in line with the rising cost of housing and groceries, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to afford the same quality of life that many of us enjoyed just a few short years ago.
The emerging data is starting to reflect that, too. We touched on this in our recent piece on the most dangerous areas of London, but there’s been substantial movement in figures and statistics from across England and Wales.
Using the data from the most recent Office of National Statistics release, we find that there’s been several different indicators of the struggles many face in the wake of a cost of living crisis. Here are just a few of the more standout points from that report, and how they reaffirm the suspicion that crime is set to rise this Christmas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of the economic crisis we find ourselves grappling with, shoplifting has seen the most substantial increase when we compare it to the figures published in 2022.
Across England and Wales, there’s been a colossal 25% rise in shoplifting, rising from 292,584 offences in 2022 to 365,164 offences in 2023. This isn’t split evenly, however. While every region in the UK has witnessed increases in its rate of shoplifting, some areas are more affected than others.
Sussex has seen the largest increase in comparison to its 2022 rate, rising by 45% to 12,920 incidents (compared to 8917 incidents in 2022). There were similar rises across Northumbria (increased by 44% to 12,285 incidents), Avon and Somerset (increased by 41% to 11,974 incidents), and Cambridgeshire (increased by 41% to 5306 incidents).
Similar to our previous point on shoplifting, theft from the person – which includes snatching of purses and bags, stealth thefts and pickpocketing – has seen a spike in comparison to 2022’s statistics.
Over the whole of England and Wales, the number of instances of theft from the person jumped from 97,883 incidents in 2022 to 116,523 incidents in the most recent batch of data from the ONS – a huge 20% increase.
Some areas are more affected than others, however. Northumbria, for instance, saw a huge increase of 43% over 2022’s numbers, rising from 755 offences to 990 in 2023. Equally concerning is the 32% increase we saw across 3 separate – Devon & Cornwall (up to 745 offences from 565), Gwent (up to 236 offences), and Dorset (up to 460 offences).
Perhaps symptomatic of the rise in robbery, theft and shoplifting, the amount of weapon possession offences has risen dramatically when compared to 2022. This is one of the more concerning increases to be gleaned from the ONS data, especially considering the wider impact that weapon possession can have.
While a rise of 13% – from 51,430 offences in 2022, to 58,426 offences in 2023 – may not seem as drastic an upsurge as some of the other stats we’ve seen in this report, it’s the individual regions that offer much grimmer reading.
Cheshire has by far the most shocking increase, with the 760 weapon possession offences in 2023 representing a massive 91% increase over 2022’s statistics. There were also scandalous increases for the amount of weapon possession in Staffordshire (up 81% to 8598 offences), and Cumbria (up 69% to 506 offences).
While the statistics we’ve outlined on crime at Christmas do make for uncomfortable reading, there are measures you can put into place to ensure you stay as safe and secure as possible as the snow starts to fall.
With Churchill, we’ve got the comprehensive expertise and consummate professionalism to ensure you’re fully protected. Whether that’s security guards and CCTV cameras for your retail premises ahead of the festive rush, or a complete alarm response and key holding service while you and your colleagues rest over the holiday season, we can provide complete peace of mind.
Plus, with our 24/7/365 Communications Centre operating throughout the Christmas and New Year period, as well as throughout the year, you’ll always have the support you need on hand.
Get in touch with our in-house experts today to discuss your options this festive season, and to receive your gift-wrapped, no-obligation quote today!