POLICE who got tough with shoplifters made 23 arrests in the centre of Bishop Auckland.

The crackdown on criminals has been welcomed by traders who lose thousands of pounds every year to theft and fraud.

Detectives and uniformed officers from Bishop Auckland police station mounted anti-shoplifting patrols over the past two weeks.

They targeted known shoplifters by working with store staff who can chart a suspect's movements through a radio link.

All the people arrested have been charged and face court appearances. Four were from Hartlepool but the rest were from the South West Durham area.

DC Neil Jones said: "We are pleased with the results so far because we have averaged 12 arrests a week.

"We have caught people who sometimes go out a couple of times a day and steal £50 or £60 worth of goods.

"It is a concerted effort with the traders involving four officers a day. There is a lot of information passed between staff in the stores and that helps us do our job.

"Some retailers might feel that we don't take retail crime seriously but it is something that we are prepared to tackle.

"Shoplifting and credit card fraud are important issues because they cost the businesses a lot of money."

Bishop Auckland Chamber of Trade chairman Margaret Ellis urged magistrates to take a tough line with offenders.

She said: "The police have done their job. It is up to courts to keep these people off the streets by taking a strong line.

"Shoplifters cost retailers a tremendous amount of money and we support any action like this.

"There is enough pressure on traders and we can't afford to lose money like this. Anything that keeps these people out of our town has got to be good."