Shoplifting in South Yorkshire is on the up – with food among the items being stolen the most.
Meat, cheese, coffee, alcohol, toiletries like razor blades – and even baby milk – are among the products being stolen most frequently.
South Yorkshire Police said sometimes the items would be offered for sale by thieves in pubs or door-to-door, and had been chosen to be sold on easily.
But poverty and desperation is also behind the rise, the force said.
“Shoplifting for food in particular is on the increase, which we do believe is a direct result of austerity and unemployment,” said South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton.
Over the last 12 months, reports of shoplifting have risen six per cent on the year before. Five hundred additional crimes have been logged in the last year, taking the tally to 10,000.
Chf Con Crompton said the force is working especially with smaller traders to help them reduce the risk of being targeted.
“We are noticing it tends to be the smaller retailers who are getting targeted more now,” he said. “So we are working with them to try to make staff more aware, and to advise on crime prevention so it is more difficult to steal from them.”
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said the rise was ‘worrying’.
“I hope this isn’t the start of a trend associated with the tightening economy, but I suspect it is,” he said. “What people need to remember is many retailers are feeling the pinch as well.
“Changes in people’s shopping habits, a general decrease in disposable income, and a real need to refresh the appeal of the city centre are existing issues.
“Shoplifting hits retailers’ bottom line badly and, in some instances, can affect their long-term viability by being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“We certainly need to work together on this, and it will probably need some innovative thinking to develop ways of combating it. Nothing is sacrosanct these days – policing is one of them – so we have to think through new ways of doing things.”
Police in Rotherham are witnessing increased levels of shoplifting there, too, and have made the issue a ‘key priority’.
South Yorkshire Police said shoplifting is ‘not a victimless crime’ pointing out ‘the cost of lost goods is passed on to the consumer through increased prices’.
Officers have been targeting the worst 10 locations in Rotherham for offences of shoplifting and drive-offs from petrol station forecourts, and are working with traders to try to make it more difficult for their businesses to be targeted.
High visibility patrols have been ordered and CCTV footage is being monitored daily to look for repeat offenders. Officers have a list of ‘known offenders’.
Chief Inspector Richard Butterworth said: “Stolen items for sale in pubs or door to door may seem a bargain you can’t say no to, but I urge the public to think again.
“More often than not people steal to buy drugs. And it is a criminal offence to receive stolen goods. You could be in as much trouble as the offender who took the goods from the store. Police will prosecute, and a prison sentence could be imposed.
“The impact of shoplifting is not just felt by shop owners.
“The scale of offences committed can reduce opportunities for investment in our town centres, and lead to premises being closed for long periods of time. We need to tackle these issues, so communities can start to thrive.”
* Anyone with information about shoplifters should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
RETAILER REACTION: * Jai Singh, who owns Singhs Premier convenience store on Wheata Road, Parson Cross, Sheffield, said: “We have noticed an increase in shoplifting and it’s not necessarily the people you would expect. People often think of shoplifters as kids or those with drug habits, which you do get, but more recently we have seen some of the older generation, which has surprised us. There just doesn’t seem to be the same disposable income there used to be, with things like energy bills going up all the time.”
* Gaynor Grant, who runs S&M Furnishing on Middlewood Road, Hillsborough, said: “I have been here for two years and have had bits taken, such as from our displays outside, but we have CCTV rolling 24 hours a day which is a deterrent. I think the courts could do their bit more, and hand out longer sentences for shoplifters to put them off. Times are tough for small businesses, and shoplifting doesn’t help.”
* Phil Bartram, who runs Stone the Crows on The Moor in Sheffield city centre, said: “We don’t get a lot of it. Some shops have racks of stock out, so it can be difficult to tell if anything has been stolen, whereas I have one item of every line out at any one time so I know what we should have. Obviously shoplifting does affect businesses because they have to recoup what they have lost before they can start making any profit.”
SHOPLIFTING CRIMES UNDER INVESTIGATION:
The Star, on its front page on Friday, August 19, published CCTV photos of 10 people South Yorkshire police want to talk to in connection with the following shoplifting offences.
1 - Cans of engine oil were stolen from a shop at Meadowhall Retail Park, Carbrook, Sheffield on March 18.
2 - Two pairs of curtains were stolen from a from a shop on Chesterfield Road, Sheffield, on March 19.
3 - Wine was taken from McColls in Rawmarsh, and meat valued at £10 was taken from the Co-op in Rawmarsh on March 16.
4 - Washing powder worth £25 was stolen from the Co-op, Swinton, on February 12.
5 - Food to the value of £60 was taken from One Stop Shop, Thrybergh, on March 18.
6 - Some steaks were stolen from the meat section of a store in the Crookes area of Sheffield, on March 15.
7 - A bottle of champagne worth £33 was taken from the Co-op, Swinton, on February 21.
8 - Several headphone sets and a sound bar were stolen from a shop on Whitham Road, Broomhill, Sheffield, on March 15.
9 - Another shot as engine oil was stolen from a shop at Meadowhall Retail Park, Carbrook, Sheffield on March 18.
10 - Coffee worth £30 was stolen from TCs on Badsley Moor Lane on March 7.