A family-run convenience store in Limerick is losing €250,000 a year, as a result of shoplifting and break-ins, its owner has said.

The Irish Independent reports on the crime affecting the Gleeson family, who have five shops in the city but are becoming increasingly concerned by shoplifting gangs, who often use electric bikes.

“They hit at any time, running through the store grabbing anything they can and then speeding off on electric bikes on which they can easily negotiate traffic. They don’t seem to care and we are very concerned for the safety of our staff and customers,” company director Michael Gleeson said.

Michael Gleeson added that he is now considering employing security staff with stab-proof vests and body cameras.

“The kind of measures we are contemplating are in use in Dublin. But it’s now clear that Limerick is going down the same path as Dublin with this type of crime, and we need to have a major rethink on the security measures we have in place.”

According to the retailer, there are four gangs operating out of a number of estates. “There are about six or eight youths in each gang,” he said. “They don’t seem to give a damn about anybody and are getting more aggressive.”

He added that a gang can strike at any time during the day or evening: “They sweep in through a shop like a wave and in seconds they are gone. It’s really frightening.”

While Gleeson praised the guards for doing “a brilliant job”, he added that the current penalties are not an effective deterrent, stating that the shoplifting gangs “seem to think that if they are caught they will be back out on the street in a very short period of time, and this even encourages them”.

He added that the gang members often produce knifes and on one occasion, a staff member chased them through the streets and was “viciously assaulted”. The person involved got a stiff prison sentence.

Michael Gleeson added that  Limerick City Traders’ Association is now placing a renewed priority on measures to tackle the youth gangs.