AN ALARMING number of shoplifters have been arrested during a mid-week undercover sting in Wagga’s CBD.
Police conducted a three-day operation targeting retail thieves and yielded 31 arrests.
The alleged crooks were caught by plain-clothed officers and through the use of CCTV.
The items stolen ranged from food and drinks to gadgets, jewellery, clothing and work equipment.
Inspector Peter Robertson said it was likely the most concerning result a Wagga police shoplifting operation has seen.
“These are very unfortunate figures,” he said.
“It has proven that theft from retail stores remains a significant issue in this city.
“Our offenders were spread across all demographics – from the young and old to the rich and poor.”
The crackdown came in response to a spate of shoplifting reports from the city’s shopkeepers and retailers.
Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data revealed Wagga averages roughly one report of shoplifting per day.
Baby shop Cotmakers owner Kaylene Blackburn said “gangs of eight to ten” often distract her staff, opening a window for perpetrators to claim five-fingered discounts.
“Shoplifting is a huge problem for us. Most days we have to review CCTV footage because we suspect someone has stolen something,” Mrs Blackburn said.
“We have installed six cameras and have signs at eye-level warning criminals they will be prosecuted, but it doesn’t deter them.
“We have to speak in codes when we suspect a thief.”