Police are watching shoplifters ‘like hawks’ in King’s Lynn

An undercover police operation in King's Lynn has put shoplifters and their 'middle-men' under the spotlight.

Over several weeks, plain-clothes officers have followed thieves shoplifting to order and raided premises suspected of handling stolen goods.

Chief Insp Ady Porter, who leads policing in the town, has issued a fresh warning to shoplifters and those handling stolen goods that they are being watched 'like hawks'.

'Our covert operation identified individuals stealing to order and taking these goods to premises in exchange for cash,' he said.

'The most marketable items were perfumes, clothing, electrical goods and alcohol. As a result of police action, a number of offenders were arrested and have since been jailed and a large quantity of stolen property recovered.'

Work to target shoplifters and people or premises taking in stolen property across the town has been stepped up in the run up to Christmas.

High visibility patrols of the shopping areas and out-of-town retail stores have increased and police are working closely with retail managers, security staff and the West Norfolk council's CCTV operators to disrupt shoplifting and identify offenders.

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In the past week, nine people have been arrested for shoplifting in stores and supermarkets in Lynn and the stolen property recovered in each case.

Elsewhere officers on patrol have stopped known offenders and, on one occasion, recovered stolen property complete with tags in their possession.

Retail staff are supporting the enforcement work by banning suspects from entering their stores and calling police when persistent offenders are seen.

Chief Insp Porter warned: 'We have a list of our 'most wanted' and we will be watching them like hawks every time they come into the town. Any person or premises linked to handling stolen goods can also expect a visit.

'There are additional undercover resources in place and we intend to breathe down the neck of thieves trying to operate in the town this Christmas.'

Shoplifters cost the economy �2bn per year and this cost is passed on to customers through higher prices.

Historically, shoplifting offences tend to rise during the winter months. Despite this, 86pc of all cases reported to police in Norfolk are detected and the offenders dealt with.

Last month, police working with HM Customs & Revenue, Trading Standards and West Norfolk council, carried out a series of warrants at three commercial premises, where they recovered a large quantity of black market cigarettes, alcohol, as well as retail goods believed to be stolen. Four people were arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods and remain on police bail while detectives carry out further enquiries.

Witnesses to shoplifting or anyone acting seen suspiciously in a store are encouraged to report it immediately by telling shop staff, security or by phoning police.