Shropshire Star

Cathy Dobbs: Shoplifting is a national epidemic

Dunelm is locking up its pillowcases and shop staff are wearing body-cams in a bid to fight the shoplifting epidemic sweeping our streets.

Police officers arrest a prolific offender in Shrewsbury town centre

Thinking the theft problem lies with cash-strapped parents stealing bread and baked beans in a bid to feed their starving kids is beyond naïve. The gang problem we have in the UK is seeing organised crime targeting our high streets and affecting our shopkeepers.

The Co-op has said that the “out of control crime” at its stores is usually committed by “repeat offenders and criminal gangs operating exempt from consequences”.

At my Co-op, I saw a man fill a black bin liner with steaks and alcoholic drinks before casually walking out.

According to figures, police in the UK recorded 339,206 shoplifting incidents in the 12 months to March, while the British Retail Consortium has estimated the number to be actually closer to eight million.

At the same time, only 14 per cent of cases resulted in charges and if they steal less than £200 it’s just a £70 fine to pay through the post – no court appearance. Waitrose and John Lewis are offering police officers free coffee in the hope that their presence will put off shoplifters.

It’s horrendous to see shopkeepers put at risk, but there is one way to get the police over quick smart – just misgender the shoplifter. The only problem I can see is that the shopkeeper is more likely to be arrested than the thief.

While these shoplifting snakes are causing our shopkeepers grief, they possibly aren’t as troublesome as the real snake that was found in a West Bromwich street recently. A 12-foot python was caught by police, who did a fantastic job.

I know a lot of us feel like we currently have house spiders the size of tarantulas running around our homes – but that’s nothing compared to seeing a python slithering past your window.

When we see headlines about shoplifters and other criminals it’s easy to believe that everyone is up to no good. All this bad news possibly makes a lot of people a bit jumpy – like the member of the public that mistook a relaxed yoga class for the site of a mass killing.

The class at the North Sea Observatory in Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire, were lying down in a candlelit room while the instructor walked between them, beating a drum. It sounds relaxing – just not for the police who rushed there thinking they would be dealing with a mass murderer.