A VICTIM of theft has described as “appalling” a police policy to deal with perpetrators of low-value shoplifting in the same way as they deal with speeding motorists.

It comes as a national newspaper revealed a quietly-introduced 2014 national policy encourages forces up and down the country to deal with thefts of under £200 “by post” to save the courts time.

But the Telegraph reported business leaders had taken the Home Office to task over the policy, which they said had led to gangs targeting high street after high street committing lower-value crimes and evading justice.

Mark Archer, who had charity tins stolen from his Bar Next Door venue in Worthing this month, said he was appalled by the policy.

He said that on a combined “shopwatch” and “pubwatch” smartphone app used by the town’s traders the same faces appear time and again, flagged up for theft, petty vandalism or anti-social behaviour.

He said: “Because they know the system is broken, they’re doing more crime. They know if they keep under a certain threshold they’re not going to get prosecuted.

“Everyone pays their taxes, we pay to have law and order and it’s just not happening.”

Earlier this month The Argus reported Sussex Police told Serge Rolland, owner of Zoingimage in Sydney Street, Brighton, that they would not pursue a shoplifter accused of stealing a £10.95 photo film despite him presenting them with her ID, bank details and CCTV photo.

The police said that with limited resources, bank enquiries would not be proportionate to a low-value crime which did not include any violence or physical intimidation.

In response, the Brighton and Hove Business Crime Reduction Partnership said: “The alleged thief may well strike again and no end of future crimes could perhaps be prevented by pursuing this one now.”

Argus analysis of Sussex Police crime map data in a one-mile radius of North Laine shows no recent increase in shoplifting.

In the year from December 2016 to November 2017 shoplifting went up by 1 per cent, from 1,279 reported thefts to 1,293 reported crimes. However that follows a ten per cent decline from 1,415 in the previous 12 months.

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said yesterday: “Our approach to dealing with shoplifting is by assessment of the threat, harm and risk levels and not tied to a specific figure.

“Sussex Police has been issuing summonses for a variety of offences, including shoplifting, by post for many years.

“Each case is considered on its own set of circumstances, not least that the accused has a known fixed address that the summons can be posted to.

“As the practice of postal summonses has been going on for some considerable time, it is not possible to establish a measuring point against rises or falls.”

He said he was unaware of targeted gang shoplifting happening in Sussex at this time.