Police criticised over theft response

A SHOPKEEPER has criticised the police after it took hours for officers to respond to a 999 call.

Laurence Cawley

A SHOPKEEPER has criticised the police after it took hours for officers to respond to a 999 call.

Will Oscroft, who runs the Walkabout gift shop in St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds, told how a thief made off with £500 worth of hats last Saturday and how he contacted the police as soon as he realised he had been shoplifted.

Because his CCTV system is digital, the 44-year-old co-owner immediately had images of the thief which he claims could have been used by the police to catch the culprit in Bury town centre.


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However, despite making a 999 call at about midday, Mr Oscroft ended up trawling the streets himself for the shoplifter. His call to the police was not returned until later that evening.

Suffolk police last night defended its handling of the case claiming although Mr Oscroft was not called back until the evening it had immediately notified officers out on the streets of Bury about the incident.

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Mr Oscroft said: “It is really annoying. We have had incidents in the past and the police have responded immediately in the past and they have been very good.

“But over the last couple of years I've seen an absolute decrease in police patrolling in the town. I am just bewildered sometimes - my rates are going up and up and up but I'm getting less and less and less.

“Shoplifting is probably the least of the police's hassles - or perhaps its one of their biggest hassles because it takes up a lot of their time.”

But, he said, the £500 worth of hats stolen was equal to a part time shop assistant's monthly wage.

Suffolk police last night defended its handling of the case.

A spokeswoman said the incident was broadcast over the police airwaves as a “grade two urgent response” and CCTV operators in the town were alerted and scoured the town for the thief.

The spokeswoman confirmed the force did not call Mr Oscroft back until the evening but said the force had been active in its initial response to the theft.

She added Mr Oscroft could lodge a formal complaint about the police's handling of the incident and any complaint would be thoroughly investigated.

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