BOURNEMOUTH shops are “paying the price” for the town’s nightlife, a security expert has warned.

Kevin Strudwick of Bournemouth Businesses Reducing Crime (BBRC) said shop staff face crime such as shoplifting during the day as officers are often tasked during the evenings, particularly at weekends.

Mr Strudwick, who worked at a loss prevention manager at Marks and Spencers for almost 30 years, said shopkeepers particularly face “drug-related problems” in Bournemouth. with shoplifting offences committed mainly by “the needy, the greedy and the seedy”.

“We respect the police and work alongside officers. The problem is government budget cuts - there just aren’t enough officers any more,” he said.

“It’s like a business. You cut the cloth to suit. It’s the same for the police, the council and big companies.”

Town rangers are being called on to “fill the void”, he said.

“The rangers were initially brought in to welcome Bournemouth visitors,” he said.

“They have no powers under the law. However, they’re increasingly being called on to step in during these types of incident.”

Mr Strudwick said card fraud and cyber-crime are contributing to the “battering” high street businesses are taking.

Shoplifters can also pose dangers to shop staff, with security guards facing threats and assaults.

Mr Strudwick said: “I attended a meeting at a Bournemouth town centre store recently and I saw a man stealing jewellery.

“I helped the guard to detain him.

“The man asked to use the toilet, but when he got out he deliberately soiled himself.

“Then he took off his trousers and threw it around.

“That’s the sort of thing security officers are facing.

“You hear of staff being pricked with needles, spat at - it really is horrendous.”

Mr Strudwick said Bournemouth has a “very vibrant and strong nightlife”.

“Officers need to work at night, especially during weekends,” he said.

“It leaves businesses vulnerable during the day. They’re paying the price.”

In 2016, the average value of a theft from a shop in Bournemouth is £116.14.

In 2015, it was £82.62, up from £74.40 in 2014 and £69.57 in 2013.

BBRC - a not-for-profit members partnership between businesses, the police, town centre management and the local authority - has banned 307 people from shops in the town centre this year alone.

A total of £22,532-worth of goods stolen from members of BBRC has been recovered this year through the partnership.

However, Mr Strudwick said: “It’s the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s not a victimless crime.

“People lose their jobs because of shoplifting. It has a huge impact.”

Councillor Bob Chapman, of Bournemouth council, said: “We quite clearly do not have sufficient police officers on duty in Bournemouth.

“It is the largest town in the county and we deserve more.”

However, he said towns and cities across the country face the same problems.

“Regretfully, it is something in this modern age that affects every shopping centre,” he said.

Steve Hughes of the town centre business improvement district said shoplifting in Bournemouth is “rife”.

“Businesses are constantly telling us that shoplifting is a real problem and they feel the police resource for a town the size of Bournemouth isn’t adequate,” he said.

“We are dealing with very aggressive people"

OFFICIAL figures for shoplifting offences dealt with by police in Bournemouth town centre have remained broadly consistent this year.

In September, 38 offences were reported, with 43 in August, 30 in July, 42 in June and 39 in May.

However, traders say many shoplifting offences go unreported as thefts are not always noticed until stock is taken.

An employee of Boots in Commercial Road, who asked not to be named, said: “This year has been more challenging.

“People will try in many ways to take things. We are struggling more. The rangers in town are very helpful, they do an amazing job.”

However, he added: “During Christmas we are open late and there is no cover so sometimes we are quite worried.

“When we are open until 8pm or 9pm, there are no rangers in town and the police are not a real cover like they maybe should be. This is something we would like to be improved.”

He said security staff often deal with “dangerous” people.

“We are dealing with very aggressive people, very nasty people,” he said.

“Security here often deal with very dangerous people and sometimes, for the money they are paid, it’s not worth it.”

Police say officers must prioritise incidents involving high threat, risk and harm. 

Bournemouth Central Neighbourhood Inspector Jane Kiernan, who took over the role from Insp Heather Dixey at the end of October, said: "Dorset Police recognises that Bournemouth is a vibrant town with an economy that covers daytime retail and family attractions, as well as a busy and thriving night-time scene.

"All this is alongside a significantly increasing residential population.

"Dorset Police has a responsibility to police all sections of the community and as is right we prioritise incidents involving high threat, risk and harm."

Insp Kiernan will review the "strategic policing picture" for the town centre as part of her new role.

"In order to do so, I will be actively engaging with all parties, including the Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID)," she said.

“These next few weeks, in the lead up to Christmas, are key for the retail industry and the neighbourhood policing teams have dedicated plans in place for proactive day-time patrols.

"This is an extremely busy time of year for everyone and we will continue to work closely with the retailers in dealing with crime and likewise hope that they will implement their own loss prevention programmes for this important time of year.”