A scheme in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in which shoplifters are charged with burglary on their fourth offence has been hailed a success by police.
Officers believe the scheme has helped cut offences in the town by 16% since July. The statistic bucks the national trend, with recent research by the British Retail Consortium suggesting shoplifting is up 70% since 2000.
Huddersfield police are able to charge persistent offenders with burglary, which carries a tougher sentence, thanks to a retail banning scheme introduced with the help of the local town centre partnership.
After being caught shoplifting for a third time, offenders are banned from entering stores involved in the scheme. If they ignore this they can be charged with burglary as they are technically trespassing.
Sgt John McFadzean of Huddersfield Police said: "The scheme is working very well. The majority of shoplifting is committed by a small minority of offenders so by targeting repeat offenders the problem is dramatically reduced.
"Shoplifters will receive a letter after two offences, telling them they are in danger of facing a ban. The offenders will then at least receive a number of weeks in jail rather than no custodial sentence at all. Local retailers have reacted very positively to the initiative."
Pav Bhullar runs a Londis store in the town with his brother Jag. He said: "I think it's a good idea. Shoplifters often just get off with a slap on the wrist. If someone has a persistent record of shoplifting then all their offences should add up when they are punished."