Thieves have become increasingly ‘brazen’ because they know ‘nothing is going to happen’ with police, a shopkeeper has complained.
A shopkeeping family from Luton said it had even handed police video proof on a £10 memory stick of the shoplifters in action – only for the police to do nothing.
Molly Patel owns two convenience stores that are regularly targeted by shoplifters.
But she has stopped reporting most incidents because the process is time-consuming and expensive, while police have never arrested a suspect.
Last year her daughter Holly, who works as a supervisor, handed police CCTV of a suspect, as well as their name and address, only to be told there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed with the case.
Retail store owners Molly Patel and Holly Patel have said the police refuse to prosecute even when they are handed clear evidence. Picture shows thieves grabbing items from shelves at the BP Fourways Garage and M&S Store, Cottingham Road, Corby
The businesswomen have even taken the step of posting footage of the thieves stealing along with their names and identity to police – only to hear there is ‘insufficient evidence’. Picture shows an incident involving a group of masked men stealing alcohol from behind a supermarket counter in 2023
Entrepreneur Mrs Patel, who also owns a Hallmark gift shop and Post Office in the town, doesn’t employ a security guard (stock photo) because it ‘doesn’t deter anyone’
Holly, 33, has to purchase a memory stick, download incriminating CCTV onto it, and post it by special delivery to Bedfordshire Police whenever they want to report an incident.
The process takes several hours and typically costs around £10 each time – and there is no way to simply upload the information via the internet.
‘We’ve got photos on the wall – a Wall of Shame – but they’re just brazen because they know nothing is going to happen to them,’ said Mrs Patel, 61.
‘They come in and take what they want. The staff do stand up to them and say “You’ve put something in your pocket”.
‘Sometimes you get it back but the majority of the time they just say they’re taking it. What can you do?’
Widow Mrs Patel opened her first Molly’s Supermarket in Luton in 1992 and another in 2002.
She employs around 35 people and the businesses get glowing online ratings from locals who shop there.
But the stores average at least one shoplifting incident each week, with some people sprinting away with baskets full of goods.
More items have been getting security tagged by supermarkets in a bid to crackdown on the shoplifting epidemic
Holly said: ‘It’s frustrating and there’s nothing you can do. I know there are more serious crimes but we’re trying to run a business and we’re losing money’. Picture shows stock photo of shoplifter
‘We don’t do it as often as we were because we don’t get anywhere. We’re getting to the stage where we’re thinking is there any point?’ said Holly, whose brother Cory, 31, is also a supervisor at the stores.
‘It’s frustrating and there’s nothing you can do. I know there are more serious crimes but we’re trying to run a business and we’re losing money.’
Describing the police response after handing over a raft of incriminating evidence about the shoplifter in May last year including his name and where he lived, she added: ‘We heard nothing back from the police.
‘Then they rang about something else, so I said ‘Because you’re on the phone can you tell me about this case?’ The person I was speaking to told me it said ‘insufficient evidence’ on the computer.
‘I said ‘How can you tell me that? The one thing I haven’t done is arrest him myself. I’ve done everything else for you’. We’ve heard nothing since.’
The suspect, who is well known to other shopkeepers in the town, got away with around £60 of goods, including meat, energy drinks and laundering products.
Entrepreneur Mrs Patel, who also owns a Hallmark gift shop and Post Office in the town, doesn’t employ a security guard because it ‘doesn’t deter anyone’.
MailOnline’s sister organisation, the Mail on Sunday, has campaigned for police to get tough on shoplifting, which is costing £1 billion a year.
Costs are ultimately handed on to customers and shop staff are left fearing for their safety.
The crime epidemic in Britain’s shops – which saw the number of unsolved shoplifting cases soar by a third to 205,676 in the year to July last year, according to Home Office data – has prompted calls for more investment in frontline policing and tougher sentencing.
Police forces have blamed tight budgets and the need to target resources elsewhere.
Chief Inspector Mike Chand said: ‘We have received eight reports of shoplifting in the Lewsey area over the last six months, which is significantly lower than other areas in Luton – which is why we would call on shop owners to report such incidents to us as often as they occur, so we can take the most appropriate action.’
Chief Inspector Chand added officers from the Luton community policing team visited Mrs Patel’s shop and others in the area on Wednesday morning ‘to offer reassurance on our activity, as well as crime prevention advice they can take to protect their stores’.
The force has recently begun Operation Belville which is intended to reduce retail crime across the county, he added. The scheme is targeting the top ten shoplifters and ‘using tactics like CCTV’.