BUSINESSES in Kingsteignton have been suffering from an increase in shoplifting since the summer.

Although the culprits are known in the area and have been reported to the police, so far they have been able to operate with impunity.

Bill and Jane Hext have been running the Oakford Service Station for 27 years. Although some loss of stock is par for the course, the amount that’s been disappearing from their shelves is unprecedented.

‘We do stock takes every six months,’ Bill explained.

‘Usually, we’re out by about £200-£300 but the last one I did back in November we were almost £2,000 down.’

Although other stores in the area, such as Tesco, Matalan, Lidl and Home Bargains did not comment on this specific case, it’s understood that they too are experiencing an uptick in shoplifting.

Shoplifting offences have increased across the board, with official police figures showing a 25 per cent increase compared to last year.

However, Bob says that the issue in Kingsteignton is down to a selection of known individuals.

He said: ‘The thing is, we know who the guys are, we even know their names. One guy is actually selling the stuff he’s stolen from us on his Facebook page.

‘One of the incidents we spotted was in September when a girl came in and literally filled her bag with soap, dishwasher tablets and washing pods. She then picked up a sandwich and a Red Bull and stuffed them into her bag as well.

‘She walked away with about £80 worth of our stock. When the member of staff tried to ask her if she was going to pay, she got a mouthful of abuse.’

There was one incident where the Oakford Garage was hit three times in one day.

‘They’re quite confident about it. They’re blatant in fact, they look at the camera while they’re doing it.

‘There was one guy who was pocketing Jack Daniel’s cans and my wife stood behind him taking them straight back.

‘But our bosses tell us not to confront them because we could get hurt.

‘There’s one we know that’s dangerous, we believe they carry a knife and needles.

‘But I’m actually responsible for the stock. So if the stock goes missing, it comes out of my bonus.

‘It also impacts our staff’s life, because they’re scared to come to work.’

While meetings have been had to make the police aware of the problem, little has changed.

Bob said: ‘We first recorded this with the police back in September.

‘I was on the phone for an hour and a half and spent all evening filling out a form. We were told they would look into it within seven days and to be honest, we got nothing from them.

‘It’s the same with petrol. We’ve had people filling up and leaving without paying, but nothing gets done.

‘We’ve got video footage and everything.

‘It’s so frustrating to see people gettig away with it like this.’

The police have been approached for comment.