Crackdown on the day tripping shoplifters

AROUND 40 people have been arrested since the start of the year as part of a police crackdown on shoplifters in Battle and Bexhill.

Operation Papio was launched in November to tackle the problem of shoplifting in the two towns in the run up to the festive season.

The operation was an immediate success and continued to run throughout the spring.

In March alone, 16 thieves appeared in court, received a caution or were dealt with by way of restorative justice.

For April, the figure was 11.

Operation Papio particularly focused on thieves who travelled by train from Hastings, taking advantage of the lack of ticket barriers at Battle and Bexhill stations.

Sergeant Mark Evans, of the Bexhill Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “The majority of our offenders came from Hastings and St Leonards and we are putting that down to them jumping the trains.

“And we have had a number of repeat offenders in the time we have been running this operation.”

Tesco Express on Battle Hill and the Co-Op in Battle High Street had been hit hard during a recent spate of shoplifting, with meat and alcohol a favourite with the thieves.

But Sgt Evans says there has been a “dramatic decrease” in shoplifting in Bexhill since Operation Papio was launched.

Shoplifting is also down in Battle.

A combination of high visibility police patrols and the deployment of plain-clothed officers led to the sharp drop.

But Operation Papio is not just about bringing offenders to justice, but looking at the reasons behind the crime.

Often shoplifting is linked to drug use, with users stealing to help fund their habit.

Sussex Police worked closely with other agencies throughout the operation, including the Substance Misuse Service and Rother District Council.

And Bexhill Police are hoping to set up an office in the town’s railway station, alongside British Transport Police and train operator Southern.

But Sgt Evans has a warning for those thinking about a shoplifting day trip.

He said: “It is a continued operation.

“If you commit crime in Battle and Bexhill, you will be caught and you will be prosecuted.”