AN increase in the number of petty crimes in Darlington could be linked to the economic downturn, a senior police officer has said.

Figures from Darlington Police reveal crime levels in the town are expected to have increased by eight per cent by the end of February, compared with the same time last year.

Shoplifting is expected to have increased by 23 per cent by the end of the month, with people stealing everyday items, including meat, alcohol, toiletries, aftershaves, detergents, toys and baby products.

Loading article content

The number of bike thefts in the town is also expected to more than double, with an anticipated increase of 53 per cent by the end of February, compared with the same time last year.

Inspector Mick Button of Darlington Police said one of the reasons for the increase in crime is the economic downturn and austerity measures.

He said: “Nationally acquisitive crime like shoplifting is on the increase, and one reason for that are the welfare reforms.

“The number of bike thefts ebbs and flows depending on the seasons, and to tackle them we have launched Operation Spoke to encourage people to mark and register their bikes to make it easier to return them if they are stolen.

“We had a very good year last year across the board for crime levels, and even though crime is now up eight per cent, it is starting to come down.

"We are aware of where the problems lie in Darlington and we are tackling them.”

He also hailed an operation to target prolific offenders and shoplifters in Darlington during the winter months a success.

Between the beginning of November and the end of January, Operation Mango saw 45 people stopped and searched and 36 people arrested in the town for a number of offences, including shoplifting.

The operation used a surge tactic to deter criminals, where every available officer is called into the town at the same time.

Insp Button said: “Darlington is still one of safest areas to live in and has the best detection rates across the force.

“Our detection rate for shoplifting is 70 per cent, so my advice for anyone planning to shoplift in Darlington is don’t do it, because we will catch you.”