SHOPLIFTING and its impact on communities has been top of the news agenda with businesses and shop owners coming out to say enough is enough.

Shoplifting has increased nationally over the last few years and it’s threatening not only the financial stability of local businesses but also the safety of its staff and the wider community.

In August the Home Office directed police forces to follow all reasonable lines of enquiry where evidence is available, no matter the value of the crime. This was a welcome instruction. For too long police up and down the country have not been taking shoplifting as seriously as they should. Ultimately, this is what has allowed the thieves to continue to offend over and over again unchallenged. But that’s already changing.

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I was glad to see a number of people arrested for shoplifting offences across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in September. This is proof the force has stepped up its response to theft to support the retail sector and local shoppers. Convenience stores are often targeted and these are really important facilities for communities which must be protected.

All this comes ahead of Safer Business Action Week which starts on Monday, October 16, which sees police and partners across the country joining together to tackle business crime with targeted operations and joint patrols to target thieves.

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In the background, there are opportunities for other agencies to tackle the problem at its root before it spills onto our high streets. Those who shoplift are often homeless and addicted to drugs and need help to break free from the cycle of offending. Substance misuse charities and supportive living can help those who want to change which, as commissioner, is something I wholly advocate. I provide funding to a number of charities that help people break free from addiction, and ultimately reduce crime. However, the police and wider criminal justice system are a big part of the puzzle and I’m glad to see police begin to take positive action against those committing this crime time and time again.

Further evidence the police are bolstering their response to neighbourhood crimes is the creation of the Northern Neighbourhood Enforcement Team. This team has only been made possible by my commitment to fund 50 more police officers in this year’s budget based on the increase in council tax you pay. Essentially, you bought this crime-fighting team and they are now out in your community working to keep you safe. Each team is made up of one sergeant and five police officers. Last month saw them focus on drug supply in Basingstoke and Winchester which saw a large amount of drugs taken off the market. The supply of drugs is linked to so many crimes. It has no place in a safe society.

As commissioner, I am pleased to see these positive changes in police responding to crime. I am here to make sure the public is getting the police service it deserves and these pockets of success will soon become the norm as my investment in common-sense policing materialises.