A SPATE of thefts from Tavistock town centre shops has led to a call for an increase in security.

High value goods worth hundreds of pounds have been stolen in the past few weeks.

Traders think they know who the suspect is because he has been caught on their own security cameras and identified as a prolific offender who has been banned from Plymouth for similar offences.

It is suspected he is now hitting ‘softer’ out of town targets which do not have the manned centralised security camera surveillance system of larger towns and cities.

In response to the recent thefts, some traders have set up their own Whatsapp warning system linking West Street and nearby premises. The Whatsapp process replaces a more formal ‘ShopWatch’ system which proved too expensive and was closed down. So, traders now want a similar version to send out an alert if a thief strikes.

Fergus Biram, son of the owner of Roots and Vines, set up the Whatsapp group after his dad Jason disturbed a thief on a repeat visit after stealing gin worth up to £300. They checked their CCTV and think they have identified the suspect: ‘My dad was threatened with injury by needles which were in his bag. It looks as if he’d been pushed out of Plymouth by a ban and was hitting more vulnerable places. Ideally, we need a manned proper cctv network.’

Scott Biram, assistant manager of Tinhay Building Supplies, said hammers worth more than £200 in total had been stolen in one hit by the same man who had targeted other Tavistock shops. He said: ‘A Whatsapp group is a great idea, but we do need a more coordinated approach on security for the town.’

Janna Sanders, of Tavistock BID, said: ‘BID has been made aware of some recent thefts from businesses in the town centre. CCTV has been investigated as part of previous business plans but following an earlier analysis, there were not enough businesses interested to make a town network financially viable. We are in favour of a proposal for such a network but it is not in our current five-year plan and budget.’