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Rise in shopliftng prompts police crackdown

John Freeman
Prolific shoplifters in Lancaster and Morecambe are being targeted by police in a clamp down, following a recent rise in offences - perhaps in part due to shops reducing staffing numbers in the face of the economic downturn.

Officers are working with shop staff in both towns in order to crack down on offenders entering stores, with both high visibility and plain clothes visits being made to premises.

Patrols are also being carried out in hot spot and thoroughfare areas, such as the Lancaster – Morecambe cycle path, so that thieves can be stopped as they make their way to commit an offence.

Visits will also be made to offenders’ homes to warn them that they are being monitored by police.

“There is often a view that shoplifting is a petty offence and that shops can afford to take the hit," notes Inspector Dave Vickers from Morecambe police,. "This is not the case. Shoplifting is theft, theft is crime and shoplifters are criminals.

“Small businesses can be ruined by the financial implications of shoplifting and invariably the costs are added on for law abiding customers at the till.

“A number of the shoplifters operating in Lancaster and Morecambe are persistent offenders," he added. "Some harass and cause anti-social behaviour whilst committing theft. This is intimidating for shop staff, who deserve to go about their work without fear.

"We will not tolerate this and police resources are cracking down on these prolific offenders.”

At the end of last year two shoplifters were given ASBOs banning them from city centre stores. One has since breached the ASBO and been sent to prison.

With many retail outlets seeing decreased sales in the face of the poor economic climate, they have cut staff levels and hours to save costs - meaning their are less staff on shop floors to deal with possible offenders.

One major Lancaster store saw its trading so slow it cut floor staff to four one day last week.

“We will seek to pursue further ASBOs and CRASBOs for those who habitually shoplift," says  Inspector Vicker, "preventing them from entering shops and restricting their movements.

"Breaches will result in prison sentences. Shoplifters need to recognise that time behind bars can be a consequence of their actions.”

Members of the public are also being asked to ‘shop a shoplifter’ if they are offered stolen goods, either on their doorstep or in the pub. Police will be carrying out checks on licensed premises to ensure stolen goods on not being sold inside.