Shoplifting during the Christmas period rose in 2011 in the eastern region compared with the previous year, new figures have revealed.

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While Norfolk Constabulary saw the smallest increase, with a little over 1pc, Suffolk police saw a significant rise of 26pc, while in Cambridgeshire the figure was 7pc up on 2010.

In real terms, this translated to 299 retail thefts in December in Norfolk last year compared with 296 in 2010, while in Suffolk there were 434 shoplifting incidents between November 16 and December 31, up from 343 the previous year.

In Cambridgeshire, there were 371 retails thefts during December compared with 346 in 2010.

Robin Twigge, regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the problems affected staff as well as shoppers.

He added: “Obviously the effect for every small business is that it’s a percentage off your bottom line, but it also makes the whole place less secure.

“If something like that happens, and it does happen, it puts people on edge. It’s about the morality and staff morale.”

All the police forces said they pro-actively worked with town centre shops to reduce crime during the Christmas period, and in some specific areas within the counties, Christmas shoplifting fell.

In Thetford, for example, retail thefts fell from 26 in December 2010, to 11 in 2011.

A Norfolk police spokesman said 86pc of all shoplifting cases reported to police led to the offenders being dealt with. She added: “We encourage staff and security to be vigilant and communicate with officers on patrol, each other and local CCTV networks to ensure a fast, effective response to any reported incidents or suspicious behaviour.

“In the current financial climate, it is pleasing that shoplifting numbers have remained steady year-on-year, however we are committed to tackling it and anyone caught shoplifting will be dealt with appropriately.”

A Suffolk police spokesman said it had carried out high visibility and covert patrols, and circulated information between retailers.

He added: “Work like this sends out a clear message that we take this matter seriously and anyone caught shoplifting will be dealt with robustly and with all the powers available to us.

“The long-term increase in shoplifting offences seen within Suffolk is a concern, but it is an issue that has been identified and we are working to find a solution.

“It is difficult to give specific reasons for this rise, or to claim that it is directly linked to the current financial climate, as it is something that has been seen across the country.

“However, we would like to remind everybody that shoplifting is a crime and can result in a criminal conviction, which can have a serious impact on someone’s life.”

A spokesman for Cambridge Constabulary added: “There has been a slight increase in shoplifting when the last two Decembers are compared, however, over a longer period – April 1 to December 31 – for 2010 and 2011, the figures actually show a drop in offences from 3,652 to 3,188, a fall of nearly 13pc.”

rebecca.gough@archant.co.uk

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