Fears shoplifters are 'getting younger

Shoplifters are getting younger and many became involved in the crime for the first time last year, Ipswich retailers claimed today.

IPSWICH: Shoplifters are getting younger and many became involved in the crime for the first time last year, Ipswich retailers claimed today.

They spoke out after figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that there was nearly one theft a minute from stores across the UK.

Colin Roberts, manager of the Buttermarket shopping centre in Ipswich, said he had seen a rise in thefts during the last 12 months.

In 2008, around 670 thefts were reported at the centre, compared to about 810 last year, representing an increase of around 20 per cent.

“It's a very high amount. There are two ways of looking at it. The store staff are getting better at what we do or it's an increase,” he said.

“There has been an increase in younger people doing it. We have certainly caught 15, 16, 17-year-olds. Some people seem to think it's an acceptable crime.

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“We certainly don't think that the fines and penalties for shoplifting are enough.”

Mike Sorhaindo, centre manager at Tower Ramparts, said: “I'm aware that more people have possibly turned to petty shoplifting due to the recessionary effects. There are people who would perhaps not normally be involved in criminal activity turning to petty theft because they can't afford the things we want to buy.”

According to Suffolk Constabulary, arrests for shoplifting increased from 802 to 1,209 in the period for November 2008 to October 2009 compared to the same months of the previous year.

The BRC study, which was for the UK as a whole, found that stealing by customers accounts for the biggest share of all retail crime both by the number of incidents (94pc) and by monetary value (42pc).

It revealed a rise in physical violence of 58pc, and a 37pc rise in verbal abuse, with at least 22,000 retail employees suffering threats, physical or verbal attacks.

Is crime on the rise in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk