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Retailers 'becoming vigilantes to protect stores'

HIGH STREET retailers are turning into vigilantes to protect their property from thieves and ram-raiders because the police are not proving effective enough in the face of increasing store thefts, Stanley Kalms, the chairman of the Dixons retail electrical chain, said yesterday.

These thefts amounted to a loss of pounds 20m last year for Dixons alone, he told a conference on Policing in the 1990s, organised by the Social Market Foundation in London. The police were becoming 'increasingly only a data collecting agency', leaving major retailers to combat the growing ingenuity and sophistication of the criminals.

Mr Kalms said large stores were turning their shops into fortresses and employing 'unprecedented' private security, fully aware that they were passing on the problem of property crime to smaller shops with fewer resources. He also urged the Government to close legal loopholes which allowed unlicensed 'squatter shops' to be used as outlets to sell stolen goods.

'As the thieves have discovered new methods of distribution and other sophisticated ways of making a dishonest buck, the law-makers seem to have been left standing in their own time warp,' Mr Kalms said.