Shoplifters made ‘confident’ by lack of deterrent, say store owners

PUBLISHED: 11:50 27 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:16 27 April 2016

Weston High Street.

Weston High Street.

Archant

Shoplifting offences have ballooned to more than one a day in Weston town centre – and shopkeepers have hit out at the ‘appalling’ lack of help to catch the culprits.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has revealed 405 shoplifting cases were reported from April 2015 to March this year, a leap from 292 the year before.

Store managers in large chains, convenience stores and even charity shops told the Mercury the problem has become ‘dreadful’ and that police take little interest in the issue.

But Sharon Bennett, the police force’s neighbourhood inspector for Weston, said some responsibility lay with store owners to deter shoplifters themselves.

Spar owner Mark Canniford, said his High Street shop lost around £15-20,000 every year through shoplifting.

But despite identifying most criminals with a sophisticated CCTV system, he said he would often be waiting weeks before any evidence is collected by police.

He told the Mercury: “It’s appalling. There’s no police presence. I’ve got really good CCTV but it can take the police up to two weeks to collect it.

“There’s no deterrent. It’s getting more blatant and shoplifters are getting so confident because they don’t fear anything.

“When the police do try to prosecute, they tend to get them quite a lot and it’s often the same faces.

“But even if someone gets caught and a compensation order is given, if they then offend again and go to prison, it wipes out the order. It’s us who get punished.”

A store manager at Tesco Express in Boulevard said shoplifting had become a ‘daily occurrence’ at the store – even though it employs a security guard to work every afternoon.

They said: “It’s definitely on the rise and it’s a daily occurrence. A year or so back, it would have been once or twice a week.

“It’s the same people who keep on coming back and doing it.

“More police presence would be helpful; it’s quite unresponsive at the moment. We used to be on a patrol route but I haven’t seen anyone go past for a while now.”

Weston’s Business Improvement District (BID) does pay for street wardens in the town centre, which it says help to ‘deter petty crime and shoplifting’.

But this has not averted a 39 per cent rise in reported offences in Weston – while most other town centres in the region have seen a fall in shoplifting.

Nowhere is off limits, according to British Heart Foundation charity shop manager Helen Reilly, who said shoplifting was ‘dreadful’ in her High Street store.

She said: “It’s dreadful in here. People take advantage of us, they think they can just get away with it. It happens every day.

“I used to chase them down the High Street but I don’t any more. You never know what they’ve got on them or what they might do.

“People give things to us to help out the charity, and then their donations get stolen. It’s bad.”

Insp Bennett told the Mercury the police’s focus is on ‘prevention rather than who did it’ and that individual store measures would help the situation.

She said: “Security guards can be good for bigger companies and there’s an awful lot which can be done by the shops themselves.

“With CCTV, it’s important everything is ready because often it isn’t, and it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money us going round.

“From a police point of view, our focus is on prevention rather than who did it. That is key.”

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