Middle-class shoplifters stealing cheese and wine
Store owners are reporting the rise of the middle-class shoplifter - as affluent criminals raid stores for luxury items such as cheese, wine and chocolate.
Shop bosses have spoken out after seeing thieves brazenly walking in and clearing out shelves of goods such as Lindt.
They cited a spike in "affluent and middle-aged" looters who get a "kick out of not paying for a bottle of wine or their Friday night steak".
Favourites of shoplifters are high-value items like meat, cheese, wine, coffee, large bars of chocolate including Lindt or Green and Blacks and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
The store managers, who wished to remain anonymous, both work at small "express" sized outlets in Bristol.
The first manager said the raids have become a national crisis after seeing his and other stores' 'shrink' (unknown loss) double over the past year.
He said: "I've worked I've worked in food retail for over 10 years. In this time it's fair to say that shoplifting has always been a problem.
''But I would say it's now really at crisis point. Not just locally in Bristol, but nationally. I think the public don't even begin to understand the scale of it."
He described losses as being at an "astronomical, unsustainable level".
The second store manager reported similar problems at a different city-centre store where he worked.
He said: "We're not talking a few people stealing to feed themselves or someone pinching a loaf of bread, they will clear whole shelves, go behind checkouts and take spirits, coffee, detergents, wine, chocolate.
"It's got the point where shoplifters will walk in take whatever they want and just walk out with not a care in the world.
"Police offer hardly any support as they are so short, most of the time all we get is a pre-written statement.
"We often get threats, in some cases assaults, dirty needles, knifes."
The managers said staff are being overwhelmed by thieves who work in groups to distract staff.
The first described an incident in a rival branch in which "a woman had a fit in a store, full-blown, foaming at the mouth.
"After a few minutes with a first aider contacting an ambulance and trying to deliver first aid she just got up and calmly walked out of the store.
"The staff couldn't work out what was going on until on reviewing the CCTV they realised in all the commotion five men had come in and helped themselves to hundreds of pounds of high value goods in all the commotion.
"She was a decoy."
He said traditional methods of stopping shoplifting, such as bottle caps and locks, were no longer working as they could be removed with devices bought on eBay for Â£10.
They said shoplifters tended to fit into four-main groups: the affluent and middle-aged who rob "for kicks"; students nicking pizza and beer; alcohols who steal "just about anything"; and addicts stealing to buy a fix.
Both blamed a shortage in police numbers for the crisis.
The second said most stores don't report thefts because "arrests are rare and punishments lenient".
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Constabulary said: "If you have been a victim of crime we would always encourage you, whether a business or individual, to get in contact and report it to us.
"When there is an incident of a shop theft where an offender has been detained by a retailer we will always make every effort to attend if resources are available.
"We have focused our approach on crime reduction and working in partnership with retailers through schemes such as Shop Watch.
"We are unfortunately working in a climate of funding cuts and therefore a reduction in workforce in terms of police officers and police staff, as highlighted in The Tipping Point report recently published by our force.
"Prioritisation of crimes, such as serious sexual offences, child sexual exploitation, high risk missing people, drugs and modern slavery or human trafficking means we have to make tough decisions about getting the right resource with the right skills to all requests for our services which require a response."