THE boss of Beales has called for police to launch a summer crackdown on the hard core of shoplifters who he says are blighting Bournemouth’s stores.

Chief executive Tony Brown says reporting the thieves is often a “waste of time” because hard-pressed officers are too busy to come out.

Mr Brown said: “We have recently upgraded our CCTV system and increased our security operation due to the rapidly increasing problems with drug related thefts.”

He said police were so stretched that it could take up to five hours for them to respond, if they came to the store at all.

“Store theft simply does not matter to the police. I would ask that for the rest of the summer we have an immediate response and arrest of every shoplifter, that way they know Bournemouth is not easy pickings,” Mr Brown added.

In one recent case, Mr Brown said it took 30 minutes to get through to the police control room after security staff caught a teenage shoplifter.

He says police rang back after another 20 minutes and told his staff they should let the 16-year-old go.

Police have said they were dealing with a sudden death and securing the scene of a reported stabbing at the time and that they do not take under-18s into custody unless necessary.

Mr Brown said a hard core of prolific shoplifters were stealing to fuel their drug habits. “They just go from store to store until they’re finally stopped and they will just come back again and hope they get in through the back door without being spotted,” he said.

“You can only hold someone for so long before it becomes a total waste.”

In recent days, Beales saw Radley handbags worth £500 snatched by a “grab and run” thief.

In another incident, a young man tried to walk out with Lego and clothing worth £300 before being tackled and dropping the bag as he escaped.

“We get incident numbers for all reported thefts but my guess is it is just filed as we never hear anything back,” said Mr Brown.

Superintendent Jared Parkin said: “We investigate all reported offences of shoplifting and will progress with those reports where there are lines of inquiry, such as CCTV.

“We fully understand concerns and recognise the impact shoplifting offences have on the members of our business community, especially independent retailers, and their frustration if they are repeatedly targeted.

“We do have many successful convictions of shoplifters and can and will use other powers such as Criminal Behaviour Orders in order to deter those who persistently cause issues to shopkeepers.”

He said the force worked with business improvement districts and councils on responses to shoplifting. “We encourage all shopkeepers and business owners to report any shoplifting incident to us as soon as possible so we can investigate,” he added.

On the idea of a summer crackdown, he said: “We will continue to attend shoplifting offences based on the threat, risk, harm and vulnerability that is posed to the staff members involved.”

At the time of this week’s incident with the 16-year-old shoplifter, officers “were preserving the scenes in relation to a report that two teenage boys had been stabbed”, he said.

“The public would expect us to prioritise our resources in this way,” he added.