CAMBS: Recession creating 'new breed of shoplifter'

HUNTINGDONSHIRE last year saw the emergence of a new breed of shoplifter – previously honest folk tempted into theft by the state of family finances in recession. The retail sector in Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives, saw huge increases in thefts from s

HUNTINGDONSHIRE last year saw the emergence of a "new breed of shoplifter" - previously honest folk tempted into theft by the state of family finances in recession.

The retail sector in Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives, saw huge increases in thefts from shops in 2008.

Some of the rise was accounted for by better reporting, but much of the increase came from "the sort of people who would not normally shoplift," according to Collette Betts, manager of Huntingdonshire Business Against Crime, which has nearly 80 members in the three towns, mostly in the retail sector.

"In the past, we have had the regular offenders, who steal things to sell," she told The Hunts Post. "But now we are getting people who are employed but cannot afford the extras, perhaps because someone on the family has become unemployed. They are taking the luxuries they can't actually afford, but for their own use.


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"The retailers are telling us that they are taking lower value items such as mascara, cosmetics and small items of jewellery, computer games and razor blades - things that are easily concealed. The normally honest seem to have turned to crime," she added.

But the seven per cent decrease in shop thefts in the first quarter of 2009, most of which is accounted for by a reduction in St Ives, was welcome, she said. "We hope the decrease is a symptom of a recovering economy."

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There were 261 reported shop thefts in Huntingdon in 2008, up from 151 in 2007. St Neots shops suffered 181 thefts last year, up from 124, and the figures for St Ives were 79 in 2008 and 57 the previous year.

The average value of thefts where thieves succeeded in getting away with goods rose from �74 to �121.

There had been fears that the closure of Woolworths stores in the three towns, favourite targets for shoplifters in the past, would transfer the thefts to other retailers, but there had been no sudden hike in offences at any other particular stores, Ms Betts said.

And concerns that the run-up to Christmas last year would see a rash of parents stealing presents for their children had not materialised, she added.

HBAC successes in the past year included the arrest of an offender passing counterfeit �20 notes in St Neots as a result of a detailed report from one of the organisation's members, three arrests of shoplifters after they had been stopped and searched in Huntingdon, three purse thieves in the same town and two drug dealers in St Ives.

CCTV helped put two known offenders behind bars, and a lorry being used to sell red diesel on a Huntingdon business park was seized by police.

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