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Police defend surge in shoplifting

PUBLISHED: 10:38 09 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:50 07 July 2010

Rob Garratt

Police have defended figures which show the number of shop thefts in Dereham and Fakenham has soared in recent years, and officers have offered reassurances that "a tremendous amount of work" is being done to fight crime.

Police have defended figures which show the number of shop thefts in Dereham and Fakenham has soared in recent years, and officers have offered reassurances that “a tremendous amount of work” is being done to fight crime.

Two weeks ago the Times reported that Dereham has seen the number of annual shop thefts rise from 78 five years ago to, 133 last year, peaking at 158 in 2008.

Fakenham saw shoplifting double in the same period, from 16 offences in 2005 to 32 last year.

But Superintendent Katie Elliott, who covers the Dereham area, said the figures could be down to more shops reporting crimes to them, rather than more thefts taking place.

She said: “A tremendous amount of work has been taking place in Dereham in order to tackle the issue of retail theft in the town. Often an increase in such a crime can reflect the fact that a store is taking more proactive action in respect of shop thefts and identifying more offences.”

Meanwhile Superintendent Dave Marshall, who covers the Fakenham area, sent out a robust message to would-be thieves.

He said: “In general, reports of shoplifting tend to come from stores where staff are observant, engaged and have confidence in tackling offenders.

“Shoplifting in Fakenham will not be tolerated and we will take firm action against those caught shoplifting or believed to be handling stolen goods - they will be caught and held to account.”

Sup Elliott also said seasonal campaign Operation Warning, which saw a crackdown on shop thieves in Dereham between November 11 last year and January 13 this year, saw “key shoplifters” arrested, resulting in a 48pc reduction in thefts, with 23 offences compared to 44 in the same period a year earlier.

Sup Elliott added: “Operation Warning did lead to a decrease in such crime for Dereham. A number of measures were employed during the operation including educating retail premises and local people about crime prevention and we conducted regular plain clothed and uniformed patrols in the town centre.

“During the operation a number of key shoplifters were arrested leading to a considerable reduction in such crime. The operation also led to a relaunch of the Dereham Shop Watch scheme.”

The police comments come after the Times revealed there have been nearly 600 thefts from Dereham shops over the last five years.

Around a third of thefts were committed at just three shops, Tesco, Roys and Morrisons, which were targeted between 58 and 60 times each. Other shops targeted were Somerfield (51), Boots (44) and the now-closed Woolworths (38).

Fakenham saw more than 100 thefts in the last five years, with Tesco hit 15 times. Budgens and Morrisons were both targeted 13 times.

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