Express & Star

Walsall town centre targeted by 60 shoplifters a month

Shoplifters are striking twice EVERY DAY in Walsall town centre with a councillor worrying the problem is putting struggling businesses under even more pressure.

Councillor Aftab Nawaz

Between July 2016 and June this year there were 722 reported incidents in the St, Matthews policing area - 60 a month on average - making it easily the most frequently reported crime apart from anti-social behaviour which encompasses a wide-range of offences.

It comes on the back of the announcement that more than 100 CCTV cameras across the borough are to be replaced in an investment from Walsall Council worth in excess of £500,000.

Councillor Aftab Nawaz, who represents St. Matthews, warned significant thefts could cause businesses to close whilst stating it was a difficult problem to tackle.

He told the Express & Star: "I am aware of the issue. It has a major impact on businesses especially in the current environment.

"It is not easy for any trader at the moment and for them to be targeted in this way by shoplifters just adds further pressure on them across the town centre.

"We have CCTV in place and we work with businesses, but it is a fact that shoplifiting has gone up.

"People have to try an understand the effect it has.

"Businesses can go under because of it. We need to find the culprits and deal with it the best way we can."

"In my view some of it is tied to austerity, people are having difficulty getting by.

"But a lot of criminals are doing it just to sell stuff on so we need to target the people buying stolen goods as well as those taking it. But of course we need the resources from the police.

"We do not have as many officers in the town centre as we used to have."

Councillor Nawaz also revealed that shoplifting was partially behind Asda's decision to axe its 24 hour opening at its George Street store last year.

The Asda in George Street, Walsall

"One of the reasons was that they did not have the security to deal with people nicking stuff at night-time," he added.

According to the latest figures on the number of shoplifting offences has remained high during the 12-month period.

While they dipped off in April with 39 reports they shot up again to 79 the following month. In June there were 60 cases referred to West Midlands Police.