A county councillor claimed a shoplifiting problem in his town is so bad that alcoholic spirits and legs of lamb have become “like currency”.

Cllr Richard Dodd made the comments to Northumbria Police officers at a meeting of the Castle Morpeth Local Area Committee on Monday (January 15).

The councillor, who represents the Ponteland North ward on Northumberland County Council, said his area was being “targeted” by criminals.

Sergeant Kate Benson, neighbourhood inspector for the Tynedale area, said the force was taking measures to tackle the problem.

Cllr Dodd said: “The theft from shops is bad. I’ve started up meetings trying to get some funding and seeing if funding is required to try and stop this. Spirits and legs of lamb have become currency.

“Stores are not allowed to tackle them, so they are just blatantly walking out. At the end of the day, they’re our stores and I think the perpetrators are coming from outside the area.

“People are targeting Darras Hall and Ponteland. That is a concern, but I think we’re all pointing in the right direction. We’re trying to work with police.”

Cllr Dodd added that usual problems in the area such as poaching and anti-social behaviour had decreased in recent months due to recent poor weather. He also referenced the response to the recent alleged theft at Newcastle United star Joelinton’s home.

He added: “We had a helicopter out on Saturday and that scares people – but it is good we have a helicopter to chase people.”

On the shoplifting issue, Sgt Benson replied: “In relation to the theft from stores, we have been doing some plain-clothes operations. We have had positive prosecutions.

“For prolific offenders, they will be kept for court the next day. It is then up to the courts to decide. First offences or juveniles, we will look at diversionary tactics.”

Sgt Benson also pointed out that shops “have more CCTV than anywhere” making it easier to identify repeat offenders.