Shopkeepers and business owners in Blackburn say shoplifting is getting 'out of control' since the cost of living crisis started.

Blackburn Market stalls have been targeted more frequently by brazen shoplifters in the past two years, and shopkeeper Faruk believes desperation is the cause.

Faruk runs Dress Sense in Blackburn Market and says more adults have attempted to steal items of clothing over the past year than ever before.

He said: “People haven’t got any money, they’ve got nothing so stealing is their only way.

"When I see people trying to steal, sometimes I’ll stop them and ask, but I have to keep myself safe.

"There’s only ever one or two security guards around the market and they can’t watch everything, so what can you do?”

Lancashire Telegraph: Faruk says shoplifting has increased since the cost of living crisisFaruk says shoplifting has increased since the cost of living crisis (Image: LT)Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 8,912 shoplifting offences were recorded by Lancashire Constabulary in the year to June – up from 8,161 in 2022, a rise of 9.2 per cent.

Shoplifting incidents in England and Wales have increased by 24 per cent in the year to March 2023.

This has come amid a period of high inflation and low wage growth, squeezing family budgets and meaning money does not go as far.

Faruk said he is not surprised by the rise: “People are earning less so can’t afford basic essentials.

"If you have a family to feed and only £10 for food, that gets you nothing anymore so people are desperate.

"The police are understaffed so they can’t do anything. Help needs to come from the top.

"People need money, that’s the only way to reduce shoplifting and help businesses.”

His thoughts were echoed by Ann, owner of A&C cosmetics in Blackburn Market.

She’s been running the homeware, cosmetics, and accessories stall for 12 years and says shoplifting has worsened in the past year.

Lancashire Telegraph: A&C cosmetics perfume standA&C cosmetics perfume stand (Image: LT)

Ann said: “It is out of control. It used to just be youths mainly nicking but it’s adults as well now.

"People are always stealing perfume testers because they probably think they don’t cost me anything, but perfumes are sold in boxes of 12 so I’m using one as a tester, so I’m losing out straight away.

“Police can’t do much about shoplifting because they’ve got bigger things to deal with. Shoplifters just get a slap on the wrist, and we’re left to deal with it.”

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said: "We take all crime reports seriously and work pro-actively to get positive outcomes for victims."

Lancashire Telegraph: News View in Darwen StreetNews View in Darwen Street (Image: LT)

Mr Hassan, owner of News View in Darwen Street, Blackburn, deals with shoplifters on a regular basis and also says the problem has only worsened since the cost of living crisis.

He noted the main culprits used to be children but after the Covid-19 pandemic, more ‘desperate and vulnerable’ adults have resorted to shoplifting from his store than before.

He said: “It has definitely increased very much.

"I’ve said to many of the adults, ‘if you’re hungry tell me and I’ll feed you but please don’t steal’ and they’ve explained they have no money.

"I give them the food because they have nothing. That’s why more people are stealing.

“People don’t have jobs so there needs to be more done to support people otherwise business will die."

Independent retailers across the country are calling for government support to help them protect their stores from the ongoing shoplifting epidemic.

The Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) have written to policing minister Chris Philp asking for a government grant of up to £1,500 per retailer, to improve security measures for smaller shops.

Despite numerous shops in Blackburn falling victim to shoplifting, Moorey’s Health Store in Church Street haven’t had any shoplifting incidents but support the call for a grant.

Shopkeepers Bernie and Sharon said: “We’ve got a very loyal and trustworthy customer base so we’ve only ever had nice experiences.

"We have people coming in here for help and support or if they're just lonely. Children feel safe enough to come and ask us for money so we’re more than a service.

“That's the kind of business we are. We know people round here are struggling so the council should do more to support local businesses and customers. We’ve got to look out for each other."

A council spokesperson said: “We would strongly encourage anyone in Blackburn with Darwen who is struggling with food costs and the cost of living crisis to look at the wide range of support we have locally and nationally, including the Household Support Fund which can help with food and so much more.

"All the information can be found at:”

The Mall Blackburn have also been approached for comments.