A shopkeeper has called for the police to take more action after noticing a rise in shoplifting in his store - including people stealing £10 helium balloons.

Pete Gallagher, 57, owner of party supplies store Make it Magic in Shirley High Street, feels there should be better policing in the area after continual thefts from his store.

He told the Echo: “In the eight years we’ve been here, I don’t think it’s been as brazen as it is now.

“We’ve had to adopt a policy of asking customers to walk around with a shopping basket because it was just getting to the stage where some people were pretending to drop items in their buggy or try and walk out with something.

“It might not be considered much but if someone swipes five of our helium balloons from the shelf at £10 apiece, we’ve lost £50 just like that.”

The shop owner noted that thefts are affecting the independent store on a weekly basis, putting pressure on employees to challenge potential thieves.

“It can be difficult,” said Pete.

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Daily Echo:

“As a member of staff, the pressure is completely on me to challenge people and you never know how they’re going to react.

“It feels like the atmosphere has changed in today’s society to the point where you’re called out for challenging someone even if they’re in the wrong and they think they don’t have to accept responsibility.”

He added: “There might be more of a police presence nowadays but there’s less policing.”

This comes days after Hampshire police confirmed more officers were patrolling Shirley – with a focus on Shirley High Street – to crack down on shoplifting, known as Operation Gatewatch.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hampshire Police said: “Neighbourhood officers patrol Shirley High Street on a regular basis and have a close relationship with local businesses – we ensure we are consistently checking in with them and intelligence gathering.”

However, Pete said that while police officers may have walked past his business, no one had stepped through his doors to speak to him.

“I’d welcome the opportunity for an officer to come in and have a chat to me,” he said.

“I’d like to see the police come in and help pick up people on the smaller misdemeanours that they seemingly think they can get away with, rather than just walk by.”

He added: “At the end of the day, we’re a self-made business and we’re trying to keep retail on the high street thriving.”