By Vinnie O’Dowd and Bill Heaney
A persistent shoplifter has said the police need to do more to stop people like her stealing from businesses. She said shoplifting was easy, and even the clothes she had on were stolen.
BBC News has spoken to shopkeepers blighted by shoplifting – as well as those who are committing crimes.
It comes as retail bosses say they are now losing millions of pounds to thefts, which are being driven by organised crime gangs as well as persistent thieves.
And just days after a new Morrisons Daily and Post Office opened in Dumbarton High Street, staff discovered that the post box had been stolen
Amy, not her real name, is a shoplifter. She says she has to steal from shops i because her partner has an addiction, which leaves her with no money.
“This morning I stole two Monster energy drinks, I decided to steal some pasties that go in the microwave. I bought myself – well, I stole myself – some soup, some pork pies.”
Looking down at her clothes she says: “I’ve stolen my shoes, my coat.”
Amy describes shoplifting from different stores in the area.
“Co-Op was easy this morning because there was no security on. I tried TK Maxx the other week, but I got caught.” She says she has now been banned from the shop.
She feels bad about what she is doing, she says, and the impact it has on shops – but she does it anyway.
“They are trying to do business, so when you’re stealing it’s costing them money,” Amy says. “Trust me, when I steal, I feel very guilty doing it – but I have to.”
She thinks the police could do more to combat the actions of people like her.
“When people shoplift, they [police] should start putting pictures of the shoplifters on the internet, maybe on the front doors so people can see ‘warning’, you know, ‘shoplifter’.
“I don’t think police quite do their job properly.”
Properly or not the police in Dumbarton respond to call, some of which may be in connection with shop lifting.
If that’s so then they treat it seriously since just today they responded at high speed with blue light calls to the town centre.
The police vehicles travel so fast down Roundriding Road and Bonhill Road that some members of the public feel that one day this will cause a serious accident since the route from the police station at Crosslet takes them past at least three school crossing points.
Standing on her doorstop in another area – not West Dunbartonshire – a woman revealed how stolen items are sold in the neighbourhood.
“I’m like CCTV on this street. I know everything that’s going on,” the woman says. She points to a terraced house down the road: “That’s where all the shoplifters are.” She says she buys washing detergent from them.
“They turn up on my doorstep with sometimes 10 boxes of washing powder, they always sell it for around £15, never much more than that. They need the fix, you see. The drugs must be about £15. I’d never buy meat or other stuff they try to sell.”
Adrian Bhagat runs a business selling vegan products in the same area.
Shoplifters might think they are “sticking it to the man,” he says, “but I’m the man – I work very hard for my money.
“I’m the person who’s having to pay for all the costs of people shoplifting and stealing, and I don’t think it’s fair that rests on me and all the local shopkeepers.”
Retailers, including the head of Co-Op shops who have a large stores in Helensburgh and Clydebank, have warned that shoplifting has become an “epidemic”.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) told the BBC that the levels of theft now cost retailers across the country almost £1 billion a year.
Lucy Brown, an operations director for high street giant John Lewis, says the retailer is increasingly targeted by organised gangs, as well as those with “chaotic lives”.
She says that it is not just an issue for police.
“What we need is for people to understand this is a society problem, and we need help from the police, from the judiciary and from politicians.”
A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC shoplifting “strikes at the heart of the British high street”.
Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for acquisitive crime, said “organised crime is, of course, only part of the problem,” but added: “We continue to target those prolific and habitual offenders whose behaviour causes misery and takes profit from our communities and retailers.”
Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the police are once again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) Assurance Review has revealed that some Police Scotland officers have not been vetted since they started their careers and that there is no easily identifiable requirement for officers or staff to notify of any off-duty criminal conviction, offence or charge.
Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader and former police officer Wendy Chamberlain MP, right, said: “These glaring gaps in the vetting process make for alarming reading. Today’s review demonstrates that failures in oversight are not limited to elsewhere in the UK, and it is clear that Police Scotland must do far more to prevent potentially dangerous individuals holding positions of authority.
“In particular, the service must now carry out a review of its officers and staff to make sure they have been through the proper vetting process.
“I would also like to see ministers bringing forward many of the other sensible recommendations of HMICS, such as an annual integrity review for all staff to highlight issues such as convictions and misconduct.
“The Scottish Government must be committed to more than just warm words here. Policing culture needs to see a step-change to build back public trust.”