Brazen thieves caught on camera as shoplifting hits record levels in North East and North Yorkshire

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Police are receiving record numbers of reports of shoplifting in the North East and North Yorkshire, an exclusive ITV News Tyne Tees analysis can reveal.

Shopkeepers are having to close their doors earlier - and one even had to pay a “ransom” to get his car keys returned - as the crime has surged across the region.

Meanwhile, the trade union which represents shop workers has insisted shoplifting is not “a victimless crime”.

ITV News Tyne Tees analysed police data, with publicly-available records going back to 2011.

It shows that in the 12 months to September 2023 forces in Durham, Cleveland, North Yorkshire and Northumbria received 32,708 reports of shoplifting, the highest number for that period.

Reports of shoplifting are at a record high, an analysis of date from police.uk found. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

After rising steadily until about 2017, the number of recorded crimes fell off dramatically during the Covid pandemic. But the figure has risen dramatically since the end of 2021.

July, August and September 2023 each saw more than 3,000 incidents reported to police.

One of the areas with the highest rate of reports, according to the data, is around Station Terrace in East Boldon, South Tyneside, where Lala Sellathutai runs his Today's Extra convenience store.

He has shortened his opening hours, closing at 10pm rather than 11pm, in the face of persistent shoplifting.

He said: “Sometimes people can come with a knife, we have several experiences. So I know we are losing money, but we don't want to lose our life. That's why we are keeping like this, this is a problem.”

  • Shopkeeper Lala Sellathutai has shorted his opening hours in the face of persistent shoplifting

In Newcastle, Vikas Jain runs a mobile phone repair shop, Mac Repair Newcastle. His CCTV cameras have caught shoplifters brazenly taking mobile phones from display cabinets and walking out.

He said these thefts undermine “all this hard work that I'm doing”. He added: “It just takes a long time for us to cover the loss back. Our profits on these phones are probably £20, £30, £50. And £1,000 in one go. It's just really disappointing. It’s very hard to cover that back.”

But it is not just mobile phones that Vikas has had stolen. In one incident, earlier this year, a shoplifter stole his car keys off the shop’s counter while he was working to fix a broken phone.

Vikas Jain paid a "ransom" after his car keys were stolen from his shop. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

To recover the keys, and save himself a bill for a replacement running into hundred of pounds, Vikas paid the shoplifter £50 for their return.

“You can call this ransom because I'm having to pay for my own key,” he said. ”I can't expect the police to get me the key back. So I've got to do that. Nobody wants their key to be nicked and pay for their own key. It's just not acceptable. But again, what can I do?”

  • A shoplifter caught on camera stealing Vikas Jain's car keys from his shop counter

The shopworkers’ union Usdaw is this week running a campaign highlighting the impact of shoplifting on retail staff.

Its Respect for Shopworkers Week campaign has found that shoplifting can lead to both verbal and physical abuse.

According to an Usdaw survey, 42% of retail workers have been threatened by a customer, and 5% have been assaulted.

Lisa Collins, a regional organiser for Usdaw in the North of England, said shoplifting is “definitely not a victimless crime.”

“People think if they steal off a corporation, it just gets sucked into the profits,” she said. “But it's the actual event itself that is affecting our members. From being screamed at, called names, shouted at, to even physically abusing them to get the products.”

In Newcastle city centre, the business group NE1 is fighting back, with not inconsiderable success.

Newcastle NE1's Street Rangers recover 80 percent of stolen items reported to them Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Their Street Rangers, who patrol the city centre, have two-way radios connecting them to most of the area’s shops so they can warn shops if known offenders are in the area, and can themselves be alerted if a shoplifter is on the run.

According to the organisation’s chief executive, Stephen Patterson, they retrieve most of the stolen items they are alerted to.

He said: “Quite often that first response on the radio call will be by one of our street rangers, to follow and confront. They don't physically interact with shoplifters. But more often than not, 80% of the time, we're getting those goods back.”

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