WANTED: Police hunt for South Yorkshire shoplifters after massive rise

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SHOPLIFTING is up by almost a fifth in South Yorkshire - as police today launched a major new crackdown on the rising tide of thefts from stores.

Pictures have been issued of 40 wanted men and women who make up a ‘rogues gallery’ of suspects thought responsible for stealing from supermarkets, clothes shops and service stations.

There were 3,158 shoplifting incidents in the county from April to July - 470 offences more than during the same period last year.

Chief Insp Gwyn Thomas, who is leading the crackdown on shoplifting, said the ‘worrying’ 17 per cent increase in retail crime impacts on everyone - by causing the cost of goods to rise and putting the livelihoods of shopkeepers at risk.

“They are ultimately stealing from you and me,” Chf Insp Thomas said.

“It’s not one of the minor crimes people might consider it to be, because it has a huge impact on the people who run and manage stores. They are the victims - they feel intimidated by people coming in and stealing from them.

“That’s why we take it so seriously. Everyone in the country ends up having to pay £180 a year on top of their normal shopping, because that’s the amount of money being used to tackle and deal with retail crime per person.”

Chf Insp Thomas said shoplifting usually attracts persistent crooks, but said financial hardship was now causing some first-time offenders to turn to crime. He said food and clothing are the two main items stolen.

“But there’s a large proportion of people who commit shoplifting who are also going out and committing other offences,” he said.

“Some people make a large and quite comfortable income from going out and committing large-scale thefts.”

Chf Insp Thomas said the police are working alongside shops, local councils, and the Crown Prosecution Service to tackle shoplifting, as well as speaking to offenders.

“We try to find out what motivates them to do it, in order to try to remove some of the cause factors,” he added.

In Sheffield there were 1,390 shoplifting offences from April to July, up 13 per cent on the same period last year.

In Barnsley there was a 16 per cent rise with 871 offences committed, while in Rotherham shoplifting soared by 51 per cent with 468 incidents recorded.

Doncaster saw the lowest increase in the county at just eight per cent. But shopkeeper Richard Huby, who runs the Paper House store in the town’s Market Place, said he thought the true figures were higher.

“I’m sure a lot of shops are not aware of what has gone from their shelves and some, like me, don’t bother reporting it because of the time it can take up and the police might have more important things to do,” Mr Huby said.

“These figures don’t surprise me.”

Anyone with information about the people in the CCTV images should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.