HAMPSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has announced an 83.3 per cent increase in outcomes for victims of retail crime and shoplifting.

The PCC, Donna Jones, and Chief Constable Scott Chilton have reinforced their commitment to answer calls from business owners to crack down on shop theft.

Following the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan, and with the introduction of city centre units last year, more offenders are being charged and appearing in court each week.

Facial recognition technology is allowing police to quickly identify suspects caught on camera. The force is also working closer with the retail community through the initiative Op Stopall, which is tackling the most prolific retail offenders by working with businesses to gather evidence on repeat offenders.

READ MORE: Shoplifting in Hampshire increases by 32% new data reveals

Hampshire Chronicle: Chief Chilton (centre left) and Donna Jones (centre)Chief Chilton (centre left) and Donna Jones (centre) (Image: Hampshire PCC)

The initiative enables officers to build stronger cases which results in fewer court hearings because offenders are pleading guilty at the first opportunity, due to the weight of the evidence provided.

So far through Op Stopall, 248 offences have been reported, 10 offenders have been charged with 176 offences and there are five individuals under investigation for another 72 offences.

Donna Jones said: “The public have rightly been concerned about the lack of action and the blatant attitude of prolific offenders and organised crime gangs stealing, often without attempting to conceal their theft, daily. The threats and physical assaults to retail staff which have been increasing, must stop.

“I am pleased that the chief and I can make a lasting commitment to every law-abiding person in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. That commitment is clear; shoplifting will not be tolerated. It will be investigated. The force will find thieves and bring them to justice. If you assault retail workers, or threaten them, you can expect to be brought to justice.

“We need to send a clear message. If you steal, you will be punished. If you need help with a drug addiction or an alcohol addition, support is available for you. However if you don’t take advantage of that support, shoplifting is no longer going to be an easy option.”

SEE ALSO: PCC announces funding for 75 more police officers in Hampshire

Chief Chilton said: “It is not acceptable for retail staff to come to work and fear criminality, anti-social behaviour or violence.

“If left unchecked, we know that retail crime can put shops out of business, causing people to lose their jobs and lead to a deterioration of the local area, which only serves to further increase crime and put more shops out of business.

“The increase in reports shows that the business community now has more confidence to report incidents to us because we will take action. All reasonable lines of enquiry will be pursued to identify offenders, secure available evidence, seek to recover property and ensure witnesses are identified and interviewed.

“Our aim is, and always will be, to ensure that residents and store workers can go about their business free from the risk of criminals and keep our communities safe.”