Police community support officers have been praised for their role in tackling a sudden steep increase in shoplifting in Chorley.
The town has experienced a 30 per cent rise in shoplifting over the last few months which has contributed to a five per cent increase over the year from last April.
But a town centre traders boss has given his support to Chorley’s PCSOs - claiming the crime figure would be even higher without them.
Speaking about the shoplifting rise, Malcolm Allen, chairman of Chorley Traders’ Alliance, said: “When the recession started to bite, it’s been an ongoing thing in the town centre.
“It has been a growing trend.
“I first raised it at one of the town centre team meetings probably about 12 months ago.
“There’s more and more every day and it’s all age groups.
“It’s something we’ve had quite a few success rates with in the town centre by use of CCTV and the PCSOs.
“The shops, to a certain degree, are vigilant, that helps, but some of the shoplifting happens early on.”
He added: “Talking to the PCSOs, we are surprised at the age of some of the shoplifters.
“This is why we need the PCSOs more than ever now.
“They have a knack of looking at somebody and following them. They know the town centre.”
Insp Dave Robinson, of Chorley Police, said “Needless to say, we are working closely with retailers to do what we can in the this area.”
Insp Robinson said he had been interested to read the national picture regarding rises in shoplifting offences.
He said: “Some analysts suggest the recession and reduction in benefits as a cause for this.
“I have always maintained effective policing and working with retailers and other partners is, of course, critical to any success, but there are also factors beyond our control which can often influence crime trends.”
There are 42 PCSOs across the Chorley borough, 27 of which are part funded by the council.
The town centre has three.
Insp Robinson added: “Our PCSOs do a fantastic job in Chorley town centre and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to tackle local crime.
“They have daily contact with some of the most vulnerable members of our community and generate intelligence which has led to some very successful operations tackling drugs and burglary.
“They are really enthusiastic and valuable resource work seamlessly with the local community beat manager.”