Residents of shoplifting capital of Britain say it's completely LAWLESS and they've given up on the police while gangland bosses rule the streets and thieves openly sell their stolen goods

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  • Reading time:11 min(s) read

  • EXCLUSIVE: Locals in Hartlepool feel they’ve been let down by Cleveland Police  
  • Read more: Interactive map reveals shoplifting hotspots – how bad is YOUR area?

Store owners in Britain’s shoplifting capital are living in a ‘lawless’ town where gangland bosses rule the streets and thieves openly sell their stolen goods.

Last week, MailOnline revealed the areas worst afflicted by shoplifting. Cleveland topped the rankings as the place with the most number of shoplifting crimes in the past five years per 1,000 people.

During the period 2018-2023, there were 32,378 reports of shoplifting in the region. 

With a population of 570,000 according to the most recent census data, that works out at 56.80 crimes per 1,000 in population.

Shop owners and locals in Hartlepool, which falls under the protection of Cleveland Police, told MailOnline criminal gang bosses had taken charge and shoplifting was rife.

Store owners in Britain's shoplifting capital are living in a 'lawless' town where gangland bosses rule the streets and thieves openly sell their stolen goods. Pictured: Abik Romarajan, 23, works in LS Convenience store in Hartlepool

Store owners in Britain’s shoplifting capital are living in a ‘lawless’ town where gangland bosses rule the streets and thieves openly sell their stolen goods. Pictured: Abik Romarajan, 23, works in LS Convenience store in Hartlepool

Avril Sprintall, 72, (pictured) a retired office manager, said: 'A lot of the shoplifting is just people trying to survive in a cost of living crisis'

Avril Sprintall, 72, (pictured) a retired office manager, said: ‘A lot of the shoplifting is just people trying to survive in a cost of living crisis’ 

Gareth Richardson, 39, (pictured) works at Tech and Games, which provides a repair service and also buys and sells goods. He says shoplifting is so rife thieves will open up DVD boxes and take CDs which are only worth about £1

Gareth Richardson, 39, (pictured) works at Tech and Games, which provides a repair service and also buys and sells goods. He says shoplifting is so rife thieves will open up DVD boxes and take CDs which are only worth about £1

Cleveland tops the table as the place with the most number of shoplifting crimes in the past five years per 1,000 people

Cleveland tops the table as the place with the most number of shoplifting crimes in the past five years per 1,000 people

Residents said they never saw bobbies on the beat, and claimed Cleveland Police does little to protect the town from widespread theft.

Locals regularly see thieves with huge hauls being chased down the rundown streets by security guards.

Abik Romarajan, 23, works in LS Convenience store, where a massive TV screen providing views of the entire shop faces the counter.

There is also a glass screen emblazoned with ‘NO ENTRY’ signs to keep customers away from the till.

Abik said: ‘We’ve taken a lot of precautions, including changing the layout of the shop, but we still have thefts.

‘One person will hold the door of open, and another will run in, grab what they can, and run out again.

‘It happens so quickly you barely have time to react. You get a lot of kids thieving. They go for the sweets. Anything that’s easy to steal, anything that has sugar in it.

‘Because of that, we have a rule whereby we only allow two children in at once.

Last week, MailOnline revealed the areas worst afflicted by shoplifting. Cleveland topped the rankings as the place with the most number of shoplifting crimes in the past five years per 1,000 people

Last week, MailOnline revealed the areas worst afflicted by shoplifting. Cleveland topped the rankings as the place with the most number of shoplifting crimes in the past five years per 1,000 people

During the period 2018-2023, there were 32,378 reports of shoplifting in the region

During the period 2018-2023, there were 32,378 reports of shoplifting in the region

With a population of 570,000 according to the most recent census data, that works out at 56.80 crimes per 1,000 in population

With a population of 570,000 according to the most recent census data, that works out at 56.80 crimes per 1,000 in population

Shop owners and locals in Hartlepool, which falls under the protection of Cleveland Police, told MailOnline criminal gang bosses had taken charge and shoplifting was rife

Shop owners and locals in Hartlepool, which falls under the protection of Cleveland Police, told MailOnline criminal gang bosses had taken charge and shoplifting was rife

‘I watch them very closely but they still take things. You try to speak to them and they are so rude. You have no power. What can you do?

‘There’s little point calling the police. To be fair to them, they can’t get here quickly enough anyway.

‘I tell the kids I’m going to ring the police, and they run out of the shop. At least it gets rid of them.’

Tom Ward, 24, who works at Cut Price Vape, on the same street, says his shop is beset by anti social behaviour and crime and claims the police aren’t interested.

He said: ‘I caught someone trying to break in.

‘I arrived one morning, and opened up the front. I realised someone was trying to drill into the back door.

‘This was at 8am, not in the dead of the night. People have no shame.

‘We get shoplifters too. They come in in threes. One will talk to you and pretend they are interested in buying something. While you are distracted the others will steal.

‘You also get kids coming in. This is a vape shop and they are underage so you have to ask them to leave. In retaliation they will then try and steal stuff.’

Abik Romarajan, 23, who works in LS Convenience (pictured) store said: 'We've taken a lot of precautions, including changing the layout of the shop, but we still have thefts'

Abik Romarajan, 23, who works in LS Convenience (pictured) store said: ‘We’ve taken a lot of precautions, including changing the layout of the shop, but we still have thefts’

He said: 'It happens so quickly you barely have time to react. You get a lot of kids thieving. They go for the sweets. Anything that's easy to steal, anything that has sugar in it'

He said: ‘It happens so quickly you barely have time to react. You get a lot of kids thieving. They go for the sweets. Anything that’s easy to steal, anything that has sugar in it’

Tom Ward, 24, who works at Cut Price Vape (pictured), on the same street, says his shop is beset by anti social behaviour and crime and claims the police aren't interested

Tom Ward, 24, who works at Cut Price Vape (pictured), on the same street, says his shop is beset by anti social behaviour and crime and claims the police aren’t interested

Tom added: ‘In Hartlepool, there is a shortage of police.

‘The last time we reported a shoplifting offence we were told to upload a screenshot from CCTV to a link the police sent us.

‘I even gave them the name of the shoplifter, as I knew who it was. But nothing happened.

‘The shoplifters are getting away with it, 100 per cent. If it’s not drug related, the police aren’t interested.

‘People here have given up on the police. They are having to sort out problems themselves.

READ MORE: UK’s shoplifting capitals: Interactive map reveals the places where light-fingered locals are ransacking stores the worst – so how bad is YOUR area?

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‘It’s only at the point where someone gets their head kicked in that the police get involved.’

Another local said: ‘There’s no deterrent. The police don’t do anything.

‘The shoplifters openly trade, right where we’re standing now. They sell the items on in broad daylight.

‘It’s damaging to the business owner and it pushes prices up.’

Another man added: ‘It sounds about right that Cleveland is the worst in the country for shoplifting.

‘It’s the cost of living crisis. If you don’t have food for your kids, what are you supposed to do?

‘There are no police here. People can do what they want in this town.

‘Shoplifting is rife. We have shoplifters knocking on our doors, trying to sell clothes.

‘It’s the big bosses, the gangs, who are in charge. It’s lawless.’

Dawn Conroy, 49, is the manager of Eden Mobility in the town, which has scooters lined up on the pavement outside.

She said: ‘We get people trying to steal the mobility scooters.

‘The scooters are chained up, so thieves can’t take them. If they weren’t chained up they’d definitely be taken.

‘We also have lots of cameras. It’s not a massive problem for us, but it is for the town as a whole.

‘I’m not shocked the Cleveland area is the worst in the country for shoplifting.

‘We see shoplifters with big bags being chased down the street outside the shop by security guards.

‘There’s no shame, and there are no police around. The police should be back on the beat, you just don’t see them. You used to feel safe. 

‘Sometimes CID will come in asking for our CCTV, but it’s for more serious offences that have happened on the street, such as attacks or rape.

‘They’re not interested in shoplifting. It’s difficult for the security guards. They’re not able to physically get stuff back from the shoplifters.

‘A lot of it is people on drugs. You don’t know if they’re carrying a knife.

‘There’s not enough support in the town and it’s not getting dealt with. The town is going downhill and I don’t even want to live here.’

Gareth Richardson, 39, works at Tech and Games, which provides a repair service and also buys and sells goods. He says shoplifting is so rife thieves will open up DVD boxes and take CDs which are only worth about £1.

He said: ‘We have been here long enough to know who the regular shoplifters are.

‘They are the type of people who would sell their niece’s toy box.

Gareth Richardson, 39, works at Tech and Games. He told MailOnline: 'We have been here long enough to know who the regular shoplifters are. 'They are the type of people who would sell their niece's toy box'

Gareth Richardson, 39, works at Tech and Games. He told MailOnline: ‘We have been here long enough to know who the regular shoplifters are. ‘They are the type of people who would sell their niece’s toy box’

He said: 'I had someone come in here once trying to sell a little toy box with the name 'Stephanie' on it. I thought, ''just give that back to Stephanie'''

He said: ‘I had someone come in here once trying to sell a little toy box with the name ‘Stephanie’ on it. I thought, ”just give that back to Stephanie”’

He added: 'People come in here and try to sell stolen goods. We tell the police, but they're not bothered. They don't want to put the effort in for something which costs £100'

He added: ‘People come in here and try to sell stolen goods. We tell the police, but they’re not bothered. They don’t want to put the effort in for something which costs £100’

‘I had someone come in here once trying to sell a little toy box with the name ‘Stephanie’ on it. I thought, ”just give that back to Stephanie”.’

Gareth added: ‘There’s no police presence any more. You never see police walk past.

‘People come in here and try to sell stolen goods. We tell the police, but they’re not bothered. They don’t want to put the effort in for something which costs £100.’

Retired teaching assistant, Janet Carr, 58, said: ‘I’m not surprised this area is the worst in the country for shoplifting.

‘More needs to be done to help the shops. I don’t know what the answer is, but something needs to be done. The police should take shoplifting more seriously.

Retired teaching assistant, Janet Carr, 58, (pictured) said: 'I'm not surprised this area is the worst in the country for shoplifting'

Retired teaching assistant, Janet Carr, 58, (pictured) said: ‘I’m not surprised this area is the worst in the country for shoplifting’

Alan Chambers, 70, (pictured) a retired plant hire manager, added: 'Shoplifting is rife in Hartlepool. There is a lot of unemployment and it's down to lack of money'

Alan Chambers, 70, (pictured) a retired plant hire manager, added: ‘Shoplifting is rife in Hartlepool. There is a lot of unemployment and it’s down to lack of money’

‘I think the cost of living crisis and Covid have made the problem worse.’

Alan Chambers, 70, a retired plant hire manager, added: ‘Shoplifting is rife in Hartlepool. There is a lot of unemployment and it’s down to lack of money.

‘At Tesco they steal tubs of Lurpak and packs of bacon. Stuff that’s easy to sell on.

‘Just a few months ago there were kids on my estate trying to sell on Lurpak for £2 a tub. We do not see police in Hartlepool any more.’

Chief Inspector Pete Littlewood, Cleveland Police’s operational lead on retail crime, told MailOnline: ‘Whilst shoplifting has increased in Cleveland, this is the same across the country and most likely a reflection of the impact of national social and economic changes.

Dawn Conroy, 49, (pictured) is the manager of Eden Mobility in the town, which has scooters lined up on the pavement outside

Dawn Conroy, 49, (pictured) is the manager of Eden Mobility in the town, which has scooters lined up on the pavement outside

Chief Inspector Pete Littlewood, Cleveland Police's operational lead on retail crime, told MailOnline: 'Whilst shoplifting has increased in Cleveland, the picture is the same across the country and most likely a reflection of the impact of national social and economic changes'

Chief Inspector Pete Littlewood, Cleveland Police’s operational lead on retail crime, told MailOnline: ‘Whilst shoplifting has increased in Cleveland, the picture is the same across the country and most likely a reflection of the impact of national social and economic changes’

‘Cleveland is an area of significant social deprivation with high crime levels similar to larger city forces such as Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Northumbria. Our smaller geographical area, with a lower population than these large city areas, shows a higher number of incidents per thousand of the population in comparison with these other forces, so some caution should be applied when comparing forces against each other.

‘Cleveland’s charge and detection rate for shoplifting is above the national average, with 22.8% of reports ending in a charge to court. Whilst much work remains to be done in dealing with the issue of retail crime, those figures are testament to the work Cleveland Police Officers do to tackle the problem.

‘The force is proactive in its approach to preventing, reducing and catching those who regularly steal from shops. Neighbourhood teams work closely with retailers, encouraging them to report crime when it happens, offering crime prevention advice, and ensuring that we have a clear picture of what is happening through the offer of retail crime forums.

‘Efforts are also made to arrest the top five shoplifters each week, and officers regularly carry out problem solving work to prevent reoffending by making applications for Criminal Behaviour Orders. The Neighbourhood Teams take part in regular weeks of action to target retail crime, with a visible policing presence in shopping centres and engagement activity with both retailers and shoppers.

‘All reports of shoplifting reported to Cleveland Police are recorded so that our statistics provide a full and frank picture of the scale of the problem across the force area. Where there are solvability factors such as a named suspect, CCTV evidence, witnesses or other reasonable lines of enquiry, then the report will be investigated.’




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