Calls have been made for CCTV to protect businesses after an epidemic of stealing in Tavistock was revealed.

CCTV is not easily integrated into a World Heritage town due to the restrictions on changing the architecture by fixing cameras and digital receivers/transmitters to the acclaimed listed buildings.

Last year some traders clubbed together to take security matters into their own hands when a known prolific offender was identified. They said retail crime was not common and they wanted to ‘nip it in the bud’.

They set up a closed WhatsApp group for early identification of offenders through non-networked cameras fitted on an individual basis.

This allows traders to share images of thieves, so they can keep a lookout for them and possibly evicting them or making it obvious they are being watched. This unofficial scheme, which was adopted with advice from police, also uncovered a trend for older women with shopping trolleys regularly stealing high value items. An offender was apprehended, arrested and charged after a large haul waa discovered at her home.

Sgt Tom Ottley, of the West Devon local policing team, was speaking at the town council’s annual public meeting in the town hall on Tuesday to report on the past year and outline future plans.

He said there had been a 142% rise in shoplifting and said that part of this was due to past under reporting. He was talking to traders and the council about solutions.

Tim Randell, chair of Tavistock District Chamber of Trade, said: “As if there isn’t enough for local businesses to contend with - high business rates and rents, rising costs and reduced high street spending due to the cost of living squeeze. Local retail businesses now find themselves losing stock and sales through increased shoplifting, itself a symptom of the cost of living crisis. For local retail businesses, shoplifting is yet another added pressure on already slim profit margins. Which in turn means that businesses have to put their prices up to balance the losses, which affects all of us.

 “Tavistock & District Chamber of Commerce believes that organisations such as the BID, Chamber of Commerce, Tavistock Town Council and Police need to work closely with local traders to help improve the situation. This can be done with an increased community awareness campaign, heightened Police presence, security measures such as CCTV and training for frontline staff and business owners. Also a ‘Retail Radio Scheme' to allow quick contact with other stores and town centre Police - this may already exist in some format.

“Local businesses are the lifeblood of this town and we should be prepared to do what is necessary to maintain the towns business community.

 “At the same time we should be conscious of why people are driven to shoplift and work to help those in need. For some shoplifting is a necessity and for some it is a profession.”

A hardware store, quality gift shop and opticians have also been hit by crime with the use of fake notes also a problem.