A CAMPAIGN launched by Essex Police aims to stop thieves selling shoplifted goods to shops, stores and other licensed premises across the county.

The force’s Business Crime Team and Licensing Unit are on the case and raising awareness.

Police have made a total of 221 arrests for shop theft since January 1.

They visited seven convenience stores in Westcliff on February 20 to sign up the first retailers to their Operation Pedlar scheme.

Sgt Christian Denning said: “We want everyone to know that the selling and purchasing of stolen goods is not permitted and to remind retailers how easy it is to report any crime to us."

Police are asking business owners and retail staff to sign up to their 'Responsible Retailer' agreement.

This asks them to buy stock from legitimate sources only, display public awareness and staff guidance posters and share information with police about people who offer them stolen goods.

Dunmow Broadcast: Discussion - Responsible Retailer agreementDiscussion - Responsible Retailer agreement (Image: Essex Police)

Sgt Denning said: “Additionally, we’re reminding retail staff they have the power to refuse entry to people who do so and they can remove them from the premises.”

He added all of the retailers who were approached on February 20 had agreed to sign up.

Operation Pedlar aims to remove the financial incentive for thieves and, therefore, remove the benefits of theft.

Police said if one store is known to buy stolen items, then stores nearby are likely to suffer from thefts.

Sgt Denning said police are tackling shop theft from “different angles”.

He said: “Through our drug testing on arrest scheme, we’re helping to break the cycle of offending if people are stealing to feed their addictions.

“Everyone arrested for acquisitive crimes such as shop theft are tested for Class A drugs while they are in our custody".

He said those who test positive are required to attend a drug treatment assessment with one of the three charities the force works with.

If members of the public know of any stolen goods being resold in stores, they are advised to report it online or on 101, with the phrase ‘Op Pedlar’.

Business crime officers are working with licensing officers on the new initiative.

Gordon Ashford, alcohol licensing manager, said: “We take the selling of stolen goods, particularly on licensed premises, extremely seriously.

“If a licence-holder is suspected of doing so then, alongside any criminal investigation, my team will seek the revocation of a premises licence to sell alcohol if there is evidence to do so.

“In some cases, this may mean a licence is suspended ahead of any hearing.”