An accomplished professor from Buckinghamshire said a spike in shoplifting in the UK is partly due to a rise in middle-class shoplifters. 

Emmeline Taylor, professor of criminology at City, University of London, is a pretty reputable authority on retail crime as chairwoman of the Business Crime Reduction Partnerships' national standards board and the host of Retail Crime Uncovered, a podcast delving into shoplifting trends alongside international experts, among other titles. 

It is with some sway, then, that the 43-year-old, who lives in Buckinghamshire, told The Times today (November 25) that she believed a recent spike in shoplifting across the UK was due at least in part to a growing number of middle-class offenders, emboldened by occasionally dysfunctional self-service checkouts. 

Taylor has long been a student of the phenomenon of middle-class shoplifting, coining a term for it in 2016 - 'Swipers', an acronym for 'seemingly well-intentioned patrons engaging in regular shoplifting'.

Archie Norman, chairman of Marks and Spencers, told LBC this week that he believed it was "too easy" to blame the cost-of-living crisis for a rise in shoplifting, adding: "With the reduction of service you get in a lot of shops, a lot of people go in and think, 'Well this didn't scan or it's very difficult to scan and I shop here all the time, it's not my fault, I'm owed it'."

Taylor agreed with the chairman's comments and added that what might begin as a spur-of-the-moment, self-righteous decision to forgo self-checkouts can grow into a more intentional habit, especially if met with repeated success.

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She said: "At some point, the dial shifts and middle-class shoppers go from being opportunistic shoplifters to thinking, 'That felt quite good'.

"The next stage is they start becoming alert to the opportunities and then start seeking them out - it's a well-documented progression.

"They won't think of themselves as thieves, they'll think that they've cheated the system - they will say, 'Oh gosh, I'm sorry', and they've got all these excuses just ready to go." 

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October showed that shoplifting offences recorded by police in England and Wales had risen by 25 per cent over the last year.

In a visit to High Wycombe last month, Matthew Barber, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley Police said he hoped that a new reporting system and increased officer presence on the ground would help to disrupt the "vicious circle" of unreported retail crimes and police inaction in the area.  

He said: "We are in the process of deploying more officers to front-facing neighbourhood roles - a really important part of preventing these offences is being more visible and acting as a deterrent."