DESPERATE parents are driving Wagga’s rapidly rising rate of larceny, according to a fed-up retailer.
Cunning shoplifters are smuggling stolen goods in prams and using their children to distract store staff while they swoop.
Honest New South Wales households are being slugged $290 a year in elevated prices to cover the losses, a retail crime report has found.
Baby shop Cotmakers owner Kaylene Blackburn boldly shamed two mothers on social media after they stole a combined $274 worth of products on Friday.
She claims parents are pinching valuable items like cots, prams and car seats on a regular basis.
“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 three staff and most days one of them is just for security purposes.
“It’s disgusting that we are forced to treat everyone who walks through our door as a potential criminal.”
Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data revealed police in Wagga charge approximately one person with shoplifting every day.
It comes after 31 shoplifters were arrested during a mid-week undercover sting in Wagga’s CBD last month.
Inspector Peter Robertson said it was likely the most concerning result a local shoplifting operation has ever 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 store’s decision to “name and shame” the alleged perpetrators on social media incited fierce debate on Facebook.
Leanne Smyth said she was "disgusted” that the reputation of two mothers had been tarnished on a public forum.
“They’re obviously struggling so badly that they have to steal to care for their kids,” she said.
“I don’t feel anger or hatred, I feel sorry for them.
“Now they’ll have to deal with being branded criminals when really, people should be reaching out to help them.” Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.