PUBLISHED: 16:57 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:09 29 January 2018
Businesses are blaming austerity measures for causing a surge in shoplifting in St Albans, as new crime statistics reveal crime is up by 26 per cent.
The Office of National Statistics has released data for the year ending September 2017 showing the number of crimes in the St Albans community.
The data shows shoplifting has increased from 653 to 898, an increase of 37 per cent compared to figures from the year ending September 2016.
St Albans Business Improvement District (BID) manager Helen Burridge said: “The membership of St Albans Businesses Against Crime (SABAC) remains low.
“This, coupled with the social repercussions of government cuts and the repeated claims in the national press of St Albans’ affluence, make the city’s retailers a target for those struggling with the effects of austerity.
“Though the police would have us believe there are only a handful of larger chains affected, our conversations have demonstrated every retailer in the city, regardless of location, size, type, and product, is affected.
“A new Crime Partnership of criminal activity, radio network and joined-up communications between businesses will be launched in year two of the BID to provide tangible support and help make our businesses feel safe.
“We are also working with law enforcement and the public and charitable sectors to support and/or prosecute those perpetrating these crimes.”
There were 501 domestic burglaries and 322 instances of non-domestic burglary in the year ending September 2017, so 823 burglaries overall, a 27 per cent rise on the year ending September 2016.
Since September 2017, there have been numerous reports of break-ins. In January alone there were burglaries on Sovereign Park, Bernard Street, Elm Drive, Avenue Road, and Hazelwood Drive in St Albans and Short Lane in Bricket Wood.
The total number of crimes has risen from 7,330 to 9,291, but drug offences have dropped from 318 to 212.
Det Insp Alex Warwick said: “The St Albans district, along with the rest of the county, is recording more crime in the current policing year than the previous year because of improved recording procedures and people coming forward to report crimes.
“Victims of previously ‘hidden’ crimes, such as domestic abuse and sexual offences, are becoming more confident in reporting crimes, enabling the Force to safeguard more victims. Most other forces across the country have experienced rises in recorded crime as the police service continues to improve recording practises, victim confidence, and recording newer statutory offences such as ‘malicious communication.’
“We never cease in our fight to drive drugs out of the district and last year we undertook a number of police operations where drug dealers were arrested and drug related activity was disrupted. It is positive to see a reduction as a result of our on-going work.
“Hertfordshire has one of the lowest levels of recorded crime in the country, however we do experience local crime hotspots like the significant rise in burglaries across St Albans, Harpenden, and London Colney, which we are tackling with additional high-visibility and covert patrols and specifically targeting the people we believe are responsible. I would remind residents to keep homes as secure as possible by closing windows and double locking UPVC doors when they go out or go to bed, and installing security devices like CCTV.
“Please let us know about any suspicious behaviour as it could help prevent further victims of crime.
As well as using security devices, please also consider joining Neighbourhood Watch via the Online Watch Link (OWL).”