Shoplifters feel the heat in big city centre crackdown

A CRACKDOWN on shoplifters in Glasgow resulted in a specialist crime unit arresting more than 350 people.

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Police have promised to crack down on shoplifters
Police have promised to crack down on shoplifters

The two-month campaign was hailed a success in reducing crime.

High-profile policing, led by officers from the retail crime unit, saw 226 men and 127 women arrested in connection with alleged thefts in the city centre.

Each day during the blitz, which ran from November 1 until January 5, there were an average of five arrests made in relation to retail crime.

Senior officers believe these figures prove the campaign helped protect shoppers and businesses - as well as disrupting the actions of criminal gangs.

The operation also helped recover goods worth £22,551.

It was the second year of the operation, which covered the whole of the city centre.

Police vowed at the start of the blitz that it would be bigger and better than last year - and the results show officers have delivered on that promise.

Chief Inspector Alan Porte, area commander for the city centre, said today: "I am delighted with the success of the shoplifting initiative.

"However, we will not be complacent and will continue to actively target those involved in this type of crime.

"We will also continue to work in partnership with the businesses and shops in Glasgow city centre."

Six dedicated officers were involved in the campaign, which targeted organised gangs as well as opportunist thieves.

Criminals' tactics have evolved and recent years have seen the growth of professional shoplifting gangs.

Around a half of all shoplifting is believed to be carried out by organised gangs.

Figures obtained by the Evening Times show the number of shoplifting incidents increased slightly during last summer.

There were 557 incidents in the city centre in the three months from April to the end of June, against 552 in the same period last year.

However, the shoplifting unit saw a major reduction in incidents during last year's crackdown.

Thefts from city centre shops fell almost 20% as police got tough on shoplifters.

Figures show the number of shoplifting incidents in the city centre fell by 18.9% during the operation.

In 2012, there were 1567 incidents of shoplifting in the nine months from April to the end of December, against 1933 in the same period the previous year.

Mr Porte added: "The message to anyone considering shoplifting is that they will be arrested and brought to justice.

"The unit is about high-visibilty policing, reassuring the public that officers are on the streets, but also letting any potential criminals know we are there."

The extension of the unit came as the city's biggest retailers opted to stay open until 7pm on weekdays, in an attempt to boost business.

Retailers can lose hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to shoplifters, who are often stealing to order.

Glasgow is the second biggest retail destination in the UK after London, worth £2.4 billion a year, with more than 1500 shops, and 38,000 employees.

Retail bosses previously welcomed Police Scotland's actions to "protect the interests of shops".

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: "Retail is at the heart of the city."

rebecca.gray@eveningtimes.co.uk

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