‘Fresh thinking’ needed to tackle rise in thefts, say shopkeepers

Hirenkumar Patel outside his shop, Lavender News. Picture: ARCHANT

Hirenkumar Patel outside his shop, Lavender News. Picture: ARCHANT

An Ipswich shop owner has estimated a 20% loss in takings due to measures taken upon himself to thwart thieves.

Hirenkumar Patel said he felt more vulnerable to crime than at any point during his decade in charge of Chantry’s Lavender News, as retail lobbyists called for “fresh thinking” on driving down rising levels of theft – frequently involving abuse and violence.

In November, a shoplifter stole alcohol from Lavender News three times in four days – threatening to “trash” the shop if Mr Patel tried to intervene on one occasion.

Reece Burroughs was given a second chance by the courts, but was jailed for breaching his suspended sentence a day later.

Mr Patel was prompted to keep the door locked, vet customers and move alcohol out of plain view.

“We have to lock the door to feel safe,” he said.

“There was another theft about two weeks ago. I was given a crime reference number but it took 14 days to see anyone in person. Two weeks is a long time to wait before attending a crime scene.

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“We feel we’re having to police the shop ourselves.

“I’ve lost 20% of business due to barricading alcohol on one side.”

Mr Patel is a member of the Association of Convenience Stores, which revealed a rise in the number of shop thefts against retailers last year – increasingly linked to aggressive behaviour.

Chief executive James Lowman said lack of faith in the consistency of police response had led to unreported incidents.

“Retailers and their staff are facing violence and abuse on a regular basis for enforcing the law, through challenging thieves, refusing the sale of age restricted products like tobacco and alcohol, or refusing to serve people that are intoxicated,” he added.

“We need fresh thinking from government and the police, because when shop theft is not tackled properly, it has wider implications for communities.”

Last year, Suffolk police recorded 4,090 thefts from shops – up 7% on the previous 12 months.

A spokesman said offences will be dealt with robustly, with all the powers available to the force, which was working with shops to reduce theft, adding: “Periodically, operations are carried out to try to target offences through high-visibility and covert patrols in a bid to disrupt shoplifters, particularly persistent offenders who choose not to change their criminal behaviour.