Southampton city centre burglary 'epidemic' tackled by police
A Hampshire city centre is experiencing a "crime epidemic", according to the victim of five break-ins.
Spencer Bowman, who owns the Mettricks cafe chain, said Southampton was a "soft touch" for criminals, with far more crimes than comparable cities.
In 2015, Southampton's recorded burglary rate was nearly 50% higher than neighbouring Portsmouth.
But Hampshire Constabulary said a special operation had been mounted to tackle the problem.
Mr Bowman said his coffee shop, in Bargate, was broken into on Saturday night, when about £500 was stolen including a charity collection.
He said: "We are losing the fight for Southampton city centre to criminal activity - the police don't have the resources to keep our city centre safe."
Hampshire Police said while the number of its dedicated city centre officers had been reduced from 15 to six following a "force restructure" it continued to "respond to reports based on the information given to us".
It said all six current officers were patrol officers while the former total of 15 included a proportion of desk officers.
Insp Pete Jones from the constabulary said the force had also been running the previously unpublicised Operation Turbulent involving "many officers", since April.
He said it focused on the city centre and "enables officers to link reports and identify offenders" at a time when the number of burglaries and attempted break-ins at commercial premises in the centre was about five per week.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal the burglary rate in Southampton was higher in 2015 than in any other "similar area" and in the last three months, was rising in Southampton, but falling in the rest of Hampshire.
Statistics also revealed the city recorded more than 10 burglaries per head of population, compared to seven per head for towns like Hounslow and Slough.