Traders in west Dorset are ‘not shocked' that shoplifting figures have soared in the county - with one shop being targeted regularly.

Bridport businesses are calling for more police patrols on the streets to combat what they say is "outright theft" from stores.

Latest figures from Dorset Police show that shoplifting offences in the county have risen by 44.9 per cent.

A total of 4,665 offences were reported in 2023 up from 3,219 in 2022.

Theresa Richardson, who works at the Spar in East Street, Bridport says the store ‘gets a lot’ of shoplifters.

READ: West Bay SPAR staff say they've 'never seen a policeman'

When told about the latest shoplifting figures for Dorset, she said: "I'm not shocked at all.

"It’s every day (shoplifting offence). On Saturday someone picked up stuff on the sandwich counter and walked out with a load of sandwiches.

“When you are busy, and there is just two of you, it is hard to notice, you keep an eye out, but you don’t always tend to see it.”

Theresa went on to say that they have ‘regular people’ who come in and take stock, which can vary from younger people taking sweets and drinks to thieves targeting expensive alcohol.

READ: 'Shoplifting is definitely getting worse' says West Bay SPAR

Despite the rampant string of offences at the store, she feels that there is not enough of a police presence in the area and claims police think ‘it is not worth’ officers' time to investigate.

She added: "I have worked here for five years, four years in West Bay and one year in Bridport - it’s horrendous.

“You just see it and report it - that’s all we can do.

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

"It can run into hundreds of pounds what people can take – that’s just on a daily basis.

“I can't say I often see a police officer walking around here.”

In West Bay, Nicole Attrill, who runs Harbour Gifts with husband Tim, remains on 'high alert' after a spate of shoplifting incidents last summer which prompted the couple redesign the shop layout.

READ: Harbour Watch scheme proposed for West Bay and Lyme Regis

Nicole said: "I still feel there is a risk after last year and even with the adjustment made to the shop you are constantly on high alert watching what is going on.

"So far this year it has been okay, but give it to the summer and that is when it kicks off."

Nicole is, however, pleased that the new Bridport Harbour Watch has been launched.

The scheme from Dorset Police aims to improve communication between the harbour community and the police to help tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

READ: Man seen stealing tips from Bridport ice cream kiosk

Nicole added: "Our main thoughts are on the harbour watch which was created and the stickers they have put in the window which was great.

"We are really chuffed there is something going on and keeping us informed but it needs to be advertised more to the public.

READ: Majority of shoplifting crimes unresolved in Dorset

"We need the general public to see it and put them off – it's nice to see though, and it makes us feel like we have been listened to." 

A spokesperson for Bridport Business, which represents traders in the area, said: "Our members have expressed that this isn't just shoplifting; it's outright theft, impacting not only the financial stability of our shops but also the wellbeing of our entire community.

"These crimes particularly affect independent traders and small businesses, who are already navigating challenging economic conditions.

"While we appreciate the efforts of Dorset Police, there is a strong consensus among our members that more visible policing would be beneficial.

"A more consistent presence in key areas, especially during peak times, could significantly deter potential offenders.

"Despite taking measures such as installing prominent CCTV systems and posting clear warnings against theft, our members find that the determination of some individuals to commit these acts remains strong.

"This situation underscores the need for not only more policing but perhaps also enhanced community outreach and preventative measures to address the root causes of such behaviour."

Dorset Police has been targeting shoplifters in the county with operations such as 'Operation Shopkeeper' and the 'Safer Christmas' campaign.

These initiatives were designed to tackle problems such as anti-social behaviour and shoplifting by engaging with businesses and increasing police visibility.

READ: Dorset Police launches seasonal campaign to tackle crime

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Farrell said: “We have also experienced a 44.9 per cent rise in reports of shoplifting offences, which is partly due to a number of ongoing initiatives as we continue to work with businesses to increase reporting and raise awareness.

"Many people believe shoplifting is essentially a victimless crime, but this is not the case. Retail theft is very costly for communities, businesses and the economy."