POLICE will be monitoring the top 18 shoplifting offenders in Sunderland in the run up to Christmas.
The crackdown forms part of Operation Lantern that aims to prevent the annual criminal activity that costs shopkeepers thousands of pounds.
Habitual offenders face being barred from some of the city’s biggest stores.
Extra officers will be patrolling the city centre retail areas to deter and target thieves intent on stealing from them.
The top 18 offenders have been identified through the recently launched ‘Spotlight on Shoplifting’ scheme.
If they are charged with a shop theft offence, the probation service will be consulted and the court will be advised to consider additional action.
Sunderland City Shop Watch Partnership will play an integral part in the initiative.
This sees information about active shop thieves being shared so store security staff can be on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour and quickly inform the police if they need help.
The scheme can also exclude convicted shop thieves from all participating stores. Those who are arrested will also be subject to strict bail conditions and a possible future ban from the city centre and retail parks across Sunderland.
It’s hoped the initiative will match last year’s success where shoplifting offences were reduced over the Christmas period by 37 per cent.
Ged Fairclough, of Northumbria Police, said: “This operation is about providing extra patrols in and around retail outlets to not only prevent and deter offences taking place, but also reassure members of the public that Sunderland is a safe and vibrant place to shop and socialise at Christmas or any time of the year.
“People should be assured that our work is ongoing to arrest and take positive action against anyone committing crime in Sunderland.
“It’s important to note that shoplifting isn’t a victimless crime as many people may think. In these difficult financial times, theft of goods from stores inevitably means an increase in prices to offset the cost of shoplifting, so it has an effect on everyone.
“This year so far, there has been 766 reported shoplifting crimes in the city centre, 587 of which have been detected with offenders being prosecuted.
“Our message is clear – don’t make yourself a shoplifting statistic this Christmas. I’d also appeal for the public’s continued support by reporting any suspicious activity to us or store staff when out and about shopping in Sunderland to help us bring offences down.”