A BUSINESS network in Newport says members they are working to combat shoplifting in Newport centre in the run-up to Christmas after the number of offences increased last month.

The Newport Business Against Crime partnership has worked with Gwent Police and Newport City Council for the last four years in a bid to reduce the number of shoplifters.

Last year, the partnership helped to reduce stock loss among its members by 35 per cent.

Bob Bevan, director of Crime and Community Safety Solutions, said: “Each year in Newport, shoplifting and anti social behaviour causes local businesses a huge loss of money, income and good feeling to the local community, as well as unemployment and closure of businesses.”

He added that although the partnership had helped to reduce stock loss, the number of people attempting to commit crime in the city centre remains high.

“November has seen an increase in offences as shoplifters stock up for Christmas. These people are stealing to order and selling to neighbours, friends and in local pubs and fuelling the black market and organised crime gangs,” Mr Bevan said.

“Particularly we have seen an increase in theft of perfume and cosmetics as well as large scale clearance of items by gangs of criminals removing security tags and then another member returning later to steal them,” Mr Bevan added.

Fake bar codes or receipts are also being forged by gangs so they can ‘return’ expensive electrical items.

Mr Bevan added: “Currently we have a male person visiting many stores in Newport removing items from the shelves and taking them straight to the till for a refund, engaging the staff in conversation and convincing them he knows the manager, or has spoken to head office or naming other staff and persuading shop assistants he is a genuine customer.”

Detective Chief Inspector John Evans, of Gwent Police, said: “We are conscious that in the run up to Christmas we could well experience a seasonal spike in the number of shoplifting incidents, butI would remind those who or are thinking of committing shoplifting offences to expect to be caught and prosecuted.

“We will continue to work hard to tackle this kind of criminality as it affects local businesses and can very often lead to further and more serious criminality. Recent operations have seen Gwent Police Specials assisting local officers and CSOs in patrolling shopping areas and providing a visible reassurance to both shop staff and shoppers.”

Mr Bevan encourages retailers in Newport to become members of the partnership so they have access to the digital radio system in the city centre as well as photographs and information relating to persistent offenders.