A HARDCORE group of Sunderland’s most prolific shoplifters will be the target of a new campaign.
Spotlight on Shoplifting aims to deter repeat offenders by restricting the ability to commit multiple offences that are costing city centre shops thousands every year.
The scheme will concentrate on the most high-profile offenders involved in retail crime who have had either 20 previous shop theft convictions or three convictions of shop theft in the past 12 months.
From now, when one of the targeted offenders is arrested for shoplifting, police will notify Northumbria Probation’s integrated offender management (IOM) team.
Staff will then prepare pre-sentence reports for the courts, identifying the individual as eligible for the scheme.
Mary Stratford, Sunderland IOM manager, said: “By focusing on rehabilitation and prevention we can offer individuals the opportunity to change their behaviour and ensure more significant punitive measures will be imposed if they fail to respond.”
Depending on the individual, the new sentence package will include:
l A community order or suspended sentence order.
l An exclusion requirement from Sunderland City Shopwatch premises.
l A daytime electronic curfew.
l A drug or alcohol treatment programme as appropriate.
Ms Stratford said: “Those who accept the opportunity to tackle their offending will be offered packages which will help them address the issues which contribute to their offending.
“Those who are unwilling to change will find their ability to commit future offences significantly curtailed via requirements such as an electronic curfew.
“In addition an exclusion requirement can be imposed preventing them from entering the area where most of their offending takes place.”
Inspector Mick Hall, of Northumbria Police, said: “By directing persistent offenders through schemes following sentence, we hope this will greatly reduce the risk of reoffending.
“Shoplifting continues to be a focus of officers in the city centre who are continuing to carry out targeted patrols to deter offenders. We are using CCTV and store security staff to apprehend shoplifters while Shopwatch is instrumental by allowing staff to pass on concerns about problem customers from shop to shop and to contact police if a crime is in progress.”
Kevin Rusby, from Sunderland City Shop Watch Partnership, said: “Shop theft is absolutely not a victimless crime, which is unfortunately a perception of many offenders.
“Everyone suffers as a result of shop theft, from the store’s loss of goods to the front-line staff who can often suffer verbal and physical abuse, not to mention the customer who has to pay an inflated price for their goods to offset the cost of shoplifting.