Police today declared war on shoplifters after a drastic rise in Fleetwood and Cleveleys – and officers believe it may be down to changes in benefits.
The number of thefts has risen by 28 per cent this year, and a leading police officer believes the shock rise is down to the tougher economic climate.
Changes to benefits and the introduction of the controversial Bedroom Tax, which reduces benefits for those deemed to have a ‘spare’ room in their council home, are believed to be affecting some people already in the lower income bracket.
However, Fleetwood Police say they still need to act to protect traders and they have launched a crackdown to tackle the problem.
As part of Operation Refute, shops in the town which are part of the Shop Watch scheme are to be given an updated rogues’ gallery of repeat offenders to help them identify potential theft problems.
Police patrols will increase, particular in shops deemed to be more vulnerable to shoplifters, and staff will be given advice by officers.
CCTV vans are being mobilised to hotspots and all film footage available will be fast-tracked to help the police take quick action against offenders.
Insp Steve Bell, (left), of Fleetwood Police, told the Weekly News: “We have noticed over the last few weeks that shoplifting has increased in this area, both in Cleveleys and Fleetwood but especially the latter.
“There could be several reasons for this, including the current economic climate, and these offenders see shoplifting as an easy way to make money.
“Whatever the reason, it is still theft and causes a great deal of problems to our shopkeepers who are trying to make a living.
“Our clear message is that this will not be tolerated and where necessary we will look to issue Crasbo banning orders to prevent convicted offenders entering areas where they can cause problems.”