Opal, the UK National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) intelligence unit on serious organised acquisitive retail crime, is set to enhance operations with the launch of training to combat its growth.

It aims to equip retailers and police forces with the knowledge to effectively refer intelligence on a national scale. 

A new team within Opal will gather and analyse multi-channel data on organised retail crime groups.

The team is funded by the Pegasus partnership, which was launched in 2023 and is backed by the UK Home Office and retailers including John Lewis, the Co-op, M&S, Boots and Primark. 

The training is designed to clarify the process of submitting intelligence to Opal and demonstrate how information can identify and tackle the criminal groups behind a significant portion of retail crime. 

The virtual training sessions will outline the criteria for referrals and illustrate Opal’s collaborative approach with police forces, retailers and other organisations.  

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Opal intelligence head Stephanie Coombes said: “Opal has been carrying out this role for other crime types for a number of years and we have seen significant successes from having a national overview of what’s happening in the organised crime world. 

“Without a national team to bring together that information, we could have several police forces each looking into the same group. Opal’s role is to centralise that intelligence, build a strong evidence package and then work with the relevant force/s to deal with these high-harm offenders. 

“We know that many retailers have intelligence built up through their own systems and processes and the training sessions aim to demonstrate how they can work with us to share that information so action can be taken.”  

The training will take place throughout April 2024 and is open to all retailers, businesses and organisations representing them. 

A crime survey released by the British Retail Consortium in February 2024 showed that violence and abuse against retail workers in the UK soared 50% to 1,300 per day in 2022/23, up from around 870 per day the previous year.