‘It’s best to let them get away with it’: Shoplifting hotspots revealed

A store owner said today he was letting shoplifters get away, as figures showed more businesses were not supporting police action against thieves.

In 2018/19, Norfolk police were called to 4,172 reports of shoplifting.

In 712 cases, almost 17pc, the victim did not support further action - a massive jump from 33 out of 3,888 cases four years ago - just 1pc.

Benya Kurian, who owns Denmark Stores on Sprowston Road, Norwich, said letting the perpetrator get away was the easiest option.

"If I claim insurance my premiums go up," he said. "It's better to let them get away with it."

His is located in the 7th most shoplifted area in the city and 8th in Norfolk, with 53 offences reported last year.

In the most recent incident, in October last year, Mr Kurian said a shoplifter ran off with a bottle of vodka and cigarettes, costing around £25, before the cashier realised his payment card was invalid.

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He said he had reported the incident to police but has not heard from them since.

"We check CCTV and contact the police," he said. "But sometimes they never find them."

In some cases it can get violent, he said, with thieves charging in to steal alcohol and cigarettes. "It can get dangerous, some people say racist things," he added.

Police figures from 2018 show 1,306 cases, a third, resulted in a charge or summons, while in 1,140 cases no suspect was found.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: "Where a victim has chosen not to support an investigation, it is difficult to identify a suspect and secure a prosecution.

"There can be many reasons for this, such as the item has since been recovered or the item stolen is of low value and therefore the victim does not wish to pursue the matter - or an agreed resolution has been found between both parties."

They added: "Norfolk police takes shoplifting seriously due to the adverse effect it can have on local businesses."

Alco Stores in Suffolk Square, near the city centre, put up pictures in its window of alleged shoplifters to put them off.

"It was quite handy," said a shop worker, who did not want to be named.

"People would spread the word, until it got back to them, that their faces were on the window."

But he said the pictures were taken down after police said it breached data protection laws.

The top four most shoplifted areas in the county were in Norwich, with the area around St Stephens Street topping the list with 117 reports.

This was followed by All Saints Street with 103 incidents, Sweet Briar Retail Park in Hellesdon with 98 and Chapelfield shopping centre with 83.

Paul McCarthy, general manager at intu Chapelfield, said: "Our security team work closely with Norfolk police on a daily basis, reporting shoplifting incidents and assisting with evidence.

"So that we can continue to provide a safe environment for our customers, retailers and staff, we will seek to prosecute the individuals concerned wherever possible."

Elsewhere, the most shoplifted area in Great Yarmouth was the Gapton Hall shopping park in Gapton Hall Road, which had 63 reports.

The worst-hit area in King's Lynn was in and around Sainsbury's supermarket in the Vancouver Quarter, which had 38 reported thefts.

To tackle shoplifting and disorderly behaviour in the town centre and the Hardwick estate, retailers have joined forces with police in Operation Apart in 2017.

Shop owners are given profiles of the 20 most prolific shoplifters in the area and radio each other to raise the alarm if they are suspected of stealing goods.

The fewest reports were mostly recorded in areas around south Norfolk, including Diss, Dickleburgh and Harleston.

Areas in Norfolk with the most shoplifting reports:

1. St Stephens Street, Norwich - 117

2. All Saints Street, Norwich - 103

3. Sweet Briar Retail Park, Hellesdon - 98

4. intu Chapelfield, Norwich - 83

5. Gapton Hall shopping park, Great Yarmouth - 63

6. Morrisons, Riverside Retail Park, Norwich - 55

7. Exchange Street and London Street area, Norwich - 54

8. Denmark Opening, off Sprowston Road, Norwich - 53

9. Castle Quarter, Norwich - 51

10. Tesco Extra, Sprowston - 49

11. Sainsbury's, Brazen Gate, Norwich and Longwater Retail Park, Costessey - 41

12. School Road, near Great Yarmouth station and St Swithins Road, Norwich - 40

13. Co-op, Lakenham - 39

14. Sainsbury's, Vancouver Quarter, King's Lynn - 38

15. Market Place and Theatre Plain area, Great Yarmouth - 36