Shoplifting has reached a five-year high with nearly 2,100 incidents being reported across Hyndburn to the police over the past five years, the Observer can reveal.
The number has increased every year since 2009 with 483 incidents recorded in 2013/14 – a 25 per cent increase from the 382 figure in 2009/10.
Tory councillor and businessman Peter Britcliffe said the increase ‘should be setting alarm bells’ and called on a police-led campaign to protect businesses.
The Asda store on Hyndburn Road in Accrington has topped the league of the most sinned against with 234.
The Tesco Extra store in Accrington came second with 205.
Six of the top ten hotspots are located in Accrington with three in Oswaldtwistle and one in Clayton-le-Moors.
Some of the most expensive items stolen in included an 18-carat gold solitaire ring from Frank Ogden’s jewellers in Accrington in 2009/10 and around £2,000 of clothes from Matalan.
Figures released to the Observer under a freedom of information request show that 1,468 people have been dealt with by police in relation to the incidents.
Of those, 671 people were charged, 460 were given a penalty notice for disorder, 170 were summonsed and 57 were given adult unconditional cautions. A further 35 were handed community resolutions, 18 were reprimanded and one received a youth caution.
A spokesperson for Asda said the shoplifting incidents only represented a ‘minute fraction’ of shoppers.
She said: “Our total customer numbers for the store you list have been around the 10 million mark so as you can see this is a minute fraction - around 0.005 per cent - of the people who visited our stores during this period.
“That said we do take shoplifting very seriously and work with police and crime squads to bring this figure down even further and allow us to continue to offer the low prices that customers expect from Asda. That’s probably one of the reasons why it looks like we have ‘the most shoplifting offences’ - we’re just good at catching it and reporting it.”
Coun Britcliffe said the issues needed to be managed ‘more carefully’.
He said: “The fact that shoplifting has risen by 25 per cent should be setting alarm bells going and I would call for a police campaign to bring this figure down, especially as we head into the festive period.”
Lancashire Police said there has been a ‘steady increase’ however the figures for the first five months of 2014 show a 32 per cent drop.
A spokesman said: “Several things could have caused the upward trend and a big issue is the current economic climate in the country which has seen people resorting to theft of foodstuffs due to times of austerity.
“We probably also see more offences recorded as CCTV systems have improved and shops then pass the details on to the police.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said many shoplifting incidents in recent years are because of ‘need’ rather than for financial gain.
He said: “Unfortunately, this isn’t just an issue in the Hyndburn area, and it has been recognised that over the last few years there has been a change in items stol