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Time to fight Shropshire shoplifters as thefts cost businesses £1 million each year

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Almost £1 million worth of goods are stolen from shops in our region every year – and today a business leader warned crime was killing off businesses.

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, described new shoplifting figures as "unwelcome" and urged businesses to work together to tackle the problem.

It comes after figures showed goods worth almost £3m have been stolen from shops across the West Mercia and Dyfed-Powys Police areas in the past three years.

Mr Sheehan said: "Any loss of stock to high street shops, particularly small individual ones, can be very damaging to their very existence. With the loss of stock and potential profit loss, retailers face a number of challenges.

"They have also got other challenges with business rates, living wage, minimum wage and enrolment – they are all business costs they have to face. The high number of thefts is unwelcome."

Richard Sheehan

Mr Sheehan says criminals are becoming "more talented". He said: "Thieves seem to have an increasing skill set in the criminal fraternity, and they seem to be more talented and skilful than they used to. They understand distraction tactics and work in teams which makes them harder to detect."

He said businesses must work with schemes like Shopwatch to protect themselves from the economic impact of theft.

Police forces revealed that more than 9,300 incidents of shoplifting have been reported since the start of 2014.

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Many more offences go unreported because they are either undetected or are considered too trivial to pass to police.

Over the past three years West Mercia Police saw goods worth £679,703 taken in 6,451 incidents in 2014; £704,007 in 6,089 incidents in 2015 and £695,137 taken in 6,766 incidents last year.

In Dyfed-Powys the thefts saw goods worth £24,568.24 taken in 1,009 incidents in 2014; £44,518.68 in 1,328 crimes in 2015 and £27,467.06 taken in 1,491 incidents last year.

Neither police force was able to provide details on successful prosecutions, but West Mercia Police recorded 5,523 people were charged in relation to shoplifting offences with a further 8,186 still under investigation or filed. It said 2,703 were dealt with by community resolution.

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In the Dyfed-Powys Police area there were 3,828 reported crimes and a total of 1,263 people were charged with shoplifting offences since 2012.

The details were released following a Freedom of Information request from the Shropshire Star.

Figures released by the Association of Convenience Stores show that crime against convenience shops in the UK cost an estimated £232 million last year. The most commonly stolen items from the shops were alcohol, meat and confectionery.

And the figures show no sign of dropping this year.

In January a man stole between £300 and £500 of groceries from Asda in Donnington. He was identified from CCTV and was given a 12-month community order by magistrates.

In February a shoplifter was jailed for six weeks after he stole more than £300 worth of perfume from Debenhams in Telford Shopping Centre moments after being given a conditional discharge for stealing four joints of beef from The Meat Man, in Willow Street, Oswestry.

This month police have been carrying out reassurance patrols in Market Drayton after a spate of shop thefts. One of these included a high value theft of vitamin treatments from Boots, while two bottles of whisky were taken by a woman from B&M, on Frogmore Road. The thief was identified by police from CCTV footage.

Constable Mick Sturland, of the safer neighbourhood team, said: "We do regularly carry out reassurance patrols and visit target shops to offer advice and listen to concerns. We also work closely with them to identify suspects from CCTV evidence.

"Often, suspects are known to staff and officers and are quickly put before the courts but as often, a vicious cycle of drug abuse is behind the need to steal."

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