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Shoplifting in Hungerford increases by 115 per cent

Thefts have doubled since police station closed, but increased number of cases solved

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SHOPLIFTING in the Hungerford area has increased by 115 per cent under a new policing system.

The announcement was made at the Annual Town Meeting by Pc David Burleigh of the Hungerford and Lambourn Valley neighbourhood police team.

He told the meeting, held in the Corn Exchange last Wednesday, of changes to local policing introduced last summer following the closure of the town’s police station.

Pc Burleigh said: “Shoplifting... this is going to be controversial. There has been a 115-per-cent increase just locally.”

But there was some good news, too.

Pc Burleigh said: “What’s positive is that, in the 12 months before that, we only detected and solved 18 per cent of shoplifting crimes.

“This year we’ve got that to 31 per cent, almost doubling the amount of shoplifting we’ve detected and got disposals for.

“We’ve encouraged shopkeepers to be more proactive about reporting things to us, too.”

Meanwhile, the 2018 Crime Report – issued by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) – revealed a significant rise in theft from retail outlets nationally over the last year, with shop theft increasingly being linked to aggressive behaviour towards retailers and their staff.

There were more than 950,000 incidents of theft reported over the last year, rising from 575,000 in the previous year.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers need a consistent response from the police to ensure that when a crime is committed against a retailer it is taken seriously by the police and the courts.

“We need fresh thinking from government and the police, because when shop theft is not tackled properly, it has wider implications for communities... a lack of faith in the consistency of police response has led to many incidents going unreported.”

Last March, this newspaper reported how a police sergeant told a public meeting of Hungerford Town Council that officers would no longer routinely be sent out to shoplifting crimes of, for example, less than £100 worth of goods.

Instead, it was said, such crimes could be investigated retrospectively, and possibly be dealt with by means other than the courts.

Meanwhile, a police letter sent to Hungerford Town Council stated: “Clearly police attendance at incidents is prioritised according to the prevailing threat of harm to people or property... the subsequent investigation should be proportionate to the offence.”

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