POLICE have made hundreds of arrests in relation to shop thefts in Essex since the year began, new figures have revealed.

Essex Police data shows officers have carried out 450 arrests for suspected shoplifting since January 1.

Between April 1 and April 14, 58 people were arrested on suspicion of shop theft in Essex - 40 of which were charged with a total of 114 counts of shop theft.

Of those, 11 people have additionally been charged with a total of 14 assaults on shop staff.

In the past two weeks, 15 people have been arrested in Colchester, 12 in Chelmsford, and nine in Southend.

Eight arrests were made in Thurrock, meanwhile, as well as six in Harlow, five in Basildon, and three in Tendring.

One person was also cautioned for shop theft in the past fortnight and two have been issued with community resolutions. 

Cases involving ten others are still being investigated, while five arrests resulted in no further action.

Christian Denning, Essex Police business crime sergeant, said police have seen a national rise in assaults on shop staff.

He said: “We don’t tolerate any type of assault and through our Open For Business, Closed For Crime campaign, we encourage retailers to report assaults and anti-social behaviour to us, as well as thefts, so we can take action.

“We will work hard to obtain charges where we have the evidence to build a case.

“And our specialist business crime officers provide retail chains and individual stores with specific crime prevention advice to help keep their staff safe and their premises secure.

“Staff should feel safe when they are at work and customers should feel safe when they are shopping.”

Sgt Denning added members of the public can report crime or anti-social behaviour online or by ringing 101.

Meanwhile, those wanting to make a report in confidence should contact Crimestoppers while 999 is the number to ring if the crime is in process.

Essex Police’s business crime team specialise in supporting businesses, retail chains and independent shops.

A police spokesman said: “They can help you to identify risks in your work place and have developed a comprehensive guide to business crime prevention which identifies steps business-owners can take to protect themselves and their properties. 

“They can also provide your business with specific crime prevention, fraud and cyber-crime advice.”