THE boss of Beales has said his staff are having to let shoplifters go free because police do not turn up to arrest them.

Tony Brown says there is an “epidemic of shoplifting” in Bournemouth, with some repeat thieves taking hundreds of pounds’ worth of stock at a time from stores in the town centre.

But he says he has been assured that there will be an increased presence in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Brown, chief executive and owner of Beales, revealed details of several recent incidents logged at the Bournemouth store:

  • A woman who had previously made off with six Radley handbags worth £750 was caught with six purses and a handbag totalling £498. Police were called at 3.15pm but the shoplifter was let go at 8pm because they had not arrived.
  • Store staff called police after a man and a woman attempted to make off with fragrances worth £150. Police were called at 5.15pm but did not come to the scene and the pair were let go at 7.55pm.
  • Two teenage girls attempted to steal make-up worth £58. Police were called at 2.15pm but told store staff to let them go. When they were collected by parents at 8pm, one girl’s parents wanted her arrested, but the police took no action.

Mr Brown told the Daily Echo: “As we enter the busy period, we can’t carry on with thieves just being able to walk away after stealing hundreds of pounds of product.

“This is real crime – it’s not penny sweets from Woolworths.”

After a meeting between police and town centre traders yesterday, Mr Brown said he had been given assurances that there would be more visible policing.

“They’ve undertaken to increase the visible police presence between now and Christmas to help tackle this shoplifting epidemic,” he said.

“I’m encouraged, provided they do that.”

He said a number of persistent offenders were stealing goods to order, taking valuable stock from all the main stores in Bournemouth.

“When they are arrested and the police go to their homes, they find thousands of pounds’ worth,” he added.

Police Superintendent Gavin Dudfield said: “We are committed to investigating all reported offences of shoplifting and where possible we will attend incidents where alleged offenders have been detained at location. We recognise the impact shoplifting offences have on members of our business community and appreciate their concerns and their frustration if they are repeatedly targeted.

“However, as the public would expect, with all demands on our resources, our attendance will be prioritised based on an assessment of threat, risk, harm and vulnerability in the context of all matters the force is responding to at that particular time.

“Two of the incidents mentioned have occurred during the past week where officers in Bournemouth town centre have been heavily committed with other incidents of a serious nature, including a rape investigation and murder enquiry, and I would like pay tribute to all our officers and staff who have been working long hours in recent days in response to the additional demand.

“These offences reported by the retailer will continue to be investigated and we will do everything we can to achieve a positive outcome. In all cases the identity of the suspect is known and the goods have been recovered. Regardless of the fact the alleged offenders were not arrested at the scene, we have still been provided with their details and will be able to progress our enquiries.”

He pointed out that one burglar, Akuma Bitwoded Ngwenyama, 43, of no fixed abode, was recently sentenced to 20 weeks in prison for attempting to steal cosmetics worth more than £12,000 from Beales in Bournemouth on October 31.

He added: “We work with the Business Improvement Districts and the local authorities around our response to tackling shoplifting as well as anti-social behaviour and other aspects in order to ensure Dorset remains a safe place to live, work and visit. Dorset Police are keen to work with companies to help deter and prevent crime and the force has seen some excellent examples of reduction in shoplifting through a variety of methods.

“We encourage all shopkeepers and business owners to report any shoplifting incident to us as soon as possible so we can investigate.”