There was almost a 50 per cent rise in shoplifting incidents in Dorset in the last year - the highest increase in the south west region.

During the 12 months from September 2022 to September 2023, the Office for National Statistics has recorded a 48 per cent increase - from 3,030 incidents to 4,486.

The News previously reported that businesses around West Bay described 2023 as being "the worst year" for shoplifting.

READ MORE: West Dorset businesses ‘neglected by police’ in action week

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: A man carrying shopping bags (Ben Birchall/PA)

Tim Attrill, who owns Harbour Gifts gift shop in West Bay with his wife Nicole, finds the most recent ONS figures "heart-breaking".

He has recently had to refit the entire store and install more CCTV in hopes to deter thieves. 

READ MORE: West Bay shop owners 'heartbroken' by surge in shoplifting

He said: "We’ve noticed a big rise compared to other years. In summer, we see it probably daily or every two/three days. We’ve even seen adults with children teaching them to take things, it’s quite shocking to see.

“It’s heart-breaking really. Everyone works so hard along West Bay. Little independent shops have to work very hard to get money, to pay wages and manage staff and then at the end of the night you see stuff stolen. Hopefully with a new layout and more CCTV it will deter people.”

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Nicole and Tim Attrill

Katie Smith, from the local chamber of commerce group Bridport Business, said: "We are deeply troubled by the significant rise in shoplifting incidents in Dorset and across the south west. The safety and security of our local businesses and community members are of utmost importance to us.

"We believe that this increase in shoplifting incidents calls for a collaborative effort between local businesses, the police, and community groups."

Bridport Business encourages local businesses to adopt advanced security systems, including CCTV and alarm systems to deter potential shoplifters.

The chamber also aims to strengthen its relationship with the police and community groups to ensure an effective response to shoplifting and raising awareness for how local businesses were affected. 

When approached for comment regarding the sharp rise in shoplifting, Neil Corrigan, temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset Police. said: “Dorset Police has a robust plan to deal with shoplifters who cause harm in our communities starting from prevention through to sale of stolen goods.

"For prolific offenders we are now grouping offences together so we can proactively arrest and charge before bail conditions are then sought. From mid-November to mid-December, 12 suspects were targeted for a total of 85 offences with work continuing in 2024 to ensure prolific offenders are identified.

 “Our local neighbourhood policing teams and crime prevention officers work across Dorset helping businesses with crime prevention, including full security reviews and advice.”

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Dorset PCC David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick added: “I have introduced a number of measures in my role as the Police and Crime Commissioner in a bid to combat the scourge of shoplifting we are seeing in line with the national picture.

“This has included commissioning my office to set-up the Dorset Safer Business Partnership (DSBP), a strategic group consisting of my office, Dorset Police and local business lead representatives working together under four key areas – crime prevention, crime reporting, engagement and visibility, cyber-crime and fraud.

“Through the Business Crime Community Fund, I have also granted £35,000 to BIDs in Dorset for projects which will assist them in preventing and tackling these offences.

"As part of the latest Safer Streets funding, we have ensured more CCTV cameras for Dorset’s towns, alongside the integration of cameras from rural areas into the main Dorset Council CCTV control room." 

For the south west region shoplifting incidents increased by 40 per cent.

Avon and Somerset saw a 46 per cent increase compared to 24 per cent in Devon and Cornwall, 39 per cent in Gloucestershire and 42 per cent in Wiltshire.