AN UNDERCOVER detective nabbed 20 shoplifters in five days after staking out a city centre shop.

Plain clothes investigator David Parry was hired by Boots to tackle a shoplifting problem at their store in The Forum, Chester.

He recovered goods worth several hundred pounds after posing as a passer-by to catch would-be thieves in the act.

David explained: 'The shop has big glass windows, so I can be in plain clothes sitting in MacDonald's over the road, sitting on the bench reading a paper or standing in the phone box pretending to have a conversation and still keep an eye on what is going on.

'We have had a lot of thefts between the two stores in Chester. Boots in this area put a clampdown on it and hired people like myself to come in. In the last year we have had about 300 arrests.'

Like most stores, Boots takes part in a civil recovery scheme, recovering the cost of shoplifting through the civil courts.

This includes the cost of lost goods or recovered goods that are not suitable for resale, staff time spent dealing with an incident and administrative costs.

If an offender refuses to pay, bailiffs may be called in to recover property. The civil action is in addition to criminal action.

David said 17-25-year-olds are the most prolific shoplifters, stealing small cosmetics to sell on. He added that schoolchildren often steal large numbers of cosmetics to sell to their classmates.

He said: 'Shoplifting has a knock-on effect on everybody. Boots is losing millions of pounds nationally due to thefts and are having to hire private security to try to stop it.

'They will have to pass that cost on to consumers by putting up prices.'