FIVE prolific shoplifters who steal to fund their drug habits have been banned from Portsmouth’s main shopping areas.
Four men, aged 38, 46, 30 and 33 and a 35-year-old woman have stolen from more city centre shops than anyone else in Portsmouth in the last year.
Police say the offenders, who officers have not named, are responsible for at least 79 shoplifting and drug possession crimes in the area in the last 12 months alone.
Now the five, all from Portsmouth, have been handed letters banning them from 118 shops that are members of the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership.
The notices cover stores in the Cascades shopping centre, Commercial Road, Southsea, Cosham High Street and some in North End. As part of the banning order all five have been offered help to turn their lives around.
But if they enter any of the areas they are banned from and staff have grounds to believe they are going to commit a crime, the police will be called. They can then be given a warning and asked to leave the area. If they return within three months they could face arrest for aggravated trespass under section 69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Sergeant Rob Sutton from Portsmouth’s city centre unit, said: ‘We are looking at at least 50 shoplifting offences between those five people in the last 12 months.
‘All of them are drug addicts and they steal to fund their habits. We are using this legislation as another tool in our toolbox to fight crime in Portsmouth.
‘We have offered them to opportunity seek some support and advice. We want to help stop the need for their reoffending, and encourage them to engage with the support available – they just need to ask for help.
‘If they don’t want the help and they carry on reoffending we will keep pursuing them.’
Neeta Dhorajia, crime manager for the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership, said: ‘By doing this we are showing the criminals that the business community in Portsmouth will not tolerate crime.
‘We are sending a clear message to these prolific offenders that if they breach these orders they will be dealt with.’
It is the second time police in Portsmouth have used the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to tackle crime in the city.
As reported in The News, two girls – aged 14 and 15 – became the youngest people ever to be banned from shopping areas in Portsmouth last month for repeatedly terrorising staff and shoppers in the city. Their bans are in force for a year.
‘Top five’ thieves are responsible for 79 crimes in the last year
by CLARE SEMKE