THE economic downturn has led to a massive increase in shoplifting in Flintshire.
Latest figures show offences have rocketed when compared to last year.
Flintshire is now the worst area in North Wales for shoplifting.
Since April 1, shoplifting offences have shot up by 76 per cent compared to the same period last year.
North Wales assistant chief constable Gareth Pritchard said shoplifting is a bigger problem in Flintshire than anywhere else in North Wales.
He said: “Crime is down at the moment in Flintshire by 1.9 per cent, but there has been a significant increase in shoplifting.
“We have had reductions in other areas – Anglesey, Gwynedd, Denbighshire. It’s more of a problem in Flintshire than anywhere else.
“It may be because Flintshire has bigger stores here such as the huge Asda and Broughton Shopping Park.”
Mr Pritchard added: “The shops are being targeted and we are seeking to get identities of these people to help the businesses.
“Hopefully we can bring these people to justice and make it harder for them to operate.
“I guess economic times are hard, but it’s having an adverse effect on businesses.”
The offenders are not just after specific items but will steal anything and everything, from food and alcohol to electrical goods.
Mr Pritchard said: “There is quite a lot of alcohol being stolen and a lot of convenience stores being targeted.”
Broughton Shopping Park manager Colin Gilligan said the economic downturn was a factor in the shoplifting surge.
“There has been an increase in shop thefts,” he said.
“It’s hard to put a finger on a time period, but it’s become much more noticeable these days.
“Certainly the economic downturn has had an effect – it is a factor.
“We also have a problem with travelling thieves – people coming from outside the area to steal.”
Retailers at Broughton Shopping Park have been working closely with the police to combat the problem and photographs of prolific offenders from across Flintshire, Chester and Wrexham have been circulated to retailers.
Officers have been clamping down on shoplifting at the retail park and uniformed and plainclothes officers have been patrolling the shopping park in a bid to catch offenders.
South Flintshire Inspector Andy Griffiths said: “We have seen an increase and this was to do with an unusual spike in April and early May.
“Since that time we have been working closely with shops and partners and are seeing it decrease. While the percentage numbers do appear high the actual overall numbers of shoplifting offences are relatively low so hence the high percentage increase.
“By working with partners we have increased security and improved crime prevention measures.”