AFTER being blighted by petty thefts for over a year, shopowners on one of Gwent’s busiest streets have declared war on shoplifters.

Between June and August alone, police made 23 arrests in Blackwood following 30 incidents.

This followed another 24 arrests for the three months previously after there were 30 incidents of shoplifting between March and May.

Items such as alcohol, foods, toiletries and clothing were taken, and now groups and organisations on Blackwood High Street are joining together to try and address the problem.

A crackdown was launched involving local traders, Gwent Police and Caerphilly council to try and cut down a figure that has remained consistently high for over a year - for 2011/12, there were 150 incidents with 128 arrests.

Offenders vary in age from teenagers to 80-year-old Irene Topping of Summerfield Terrace, Fleur-de-Lys, who was given a conditional discharge last month after admitting stealing groceries worth £23.22, including a pork pie, from B&M Bargains.

Police officers have now started conducting patrols in uniform and plain-clothed, while council CCTV operators are monitoring the town centre more closely.

Blackwood Retail Partnership involves 25 businesses, whose security staff and store detectives are sharing information.

Partnership chairman Huw Edwards, who runs Tidal Stores warned offenders: "Blackwood High Street remains one of the busiest in the county and has an excellent mix of independent and national shops for the honest shopper. Those shoppers who aren’t honest, be warned, we are watching and you will be caught."

Blackwood inspector Mark Smith said arrests are being made regularly, which is sending out a clear message to people who think they can visit the town in order to steal.