Shoplifting in Cookstown has increased by over 50% on the same period last year, according to police.
Exclusive statistics provided to the MAIL from the PSNI revealed that the number of reported incidents have gone up considerably.
And stores, such as Tesco say they are really feeling the pressure, with gangs of thieves travelling from elsewhere to target shops in Cookstown.
“From April 1 - Nov 22 2013, there were 81 reported incidents of shoplifting,” said Chief Inspector Jane Humphries, who commands the area.
“If we compare this with the same period last year (01 April 1 - Nov 22 2012),” she went on, “there were 53 incidents reported.”
With normally two/three shoplifting incidents taking place at Tesco each week, customer service manager, Ashlene Eastwood agrees it is an increasing problem.
The “most recent shoplifting incident instore was Wednesday 20th November,” she explained, “two males attempted to leave the store with over £600 (worth) of Xbox & Playstation games (but were) stopped by security.
“A lot are people coming from other areas to specifically target the town, hitting as many retailers as possible.”
Aware of the many ways in which these thieves work, Chief Inspector Humphries said police are working hard to catch the culprits:
“There has been an increase in shoplifting definitely and our crime prevention officers are working with the local shops in relation to that.
“It’s just unfortunate that probably the shops are employing less people, and if you present the opportunity people will take it. That’s the unfortunate situation.
“Shoplifters come in many forms,” she said, “whether opportunists, persistent thieves, drug abusers or even young people, one thing you can be sure of - no item is off limits.
“There are many different tactics employed by shoplifters. Some will work alone, others with an accomplice or in a ‘team’. “Often they will attempt to distract shop staff or obstruct their view in order to pilfer items.
“Some will come equipped with de-tagging equipment and double lined bags, some have even been known to use pushchairs and prams to ferry away their stolen items.”
“Many of these ‘methods’ have been around for years, however unscrupulous individuals are constantly coming up with new ways to con and steal from law abiding businesses so it’s important to be vigilant.
“We are committed to tackling retail crime and work with the business community to address this,” she added.
But the war on shoplifting is not completely lost, as the PSNI say there are many steps that shop owners and staff can take to make it harder for people to rip them off.
Being aware of people who are acting suspiciously or who look out of place in a large coat on a warm day, placing cameras in unseen areas of the store and keeping expensive items close to tills are all ways to stopping thieves in their tracks.
Chief Inspector Humphries also said: “It is good practice to have a mix of experienced and less experienced staff working at any given time and to ensure each employee knows never to leave the shop floor unattended.
“Shop staff do also have the right to ‘arrest’ someone who they reasonably suspect is committing, or has committed, the offence of shoplifting within their view,” she added, “however we would always recommend that staff be mindful of their own safety first and contact police who can then take the matter forward through the criminal justice system.”