A THIEF who stole almost £1,000 worth of items during a shoplifting spree across Southend has been banned from two chains across Essex.

David Knight, 41, admitted 19 counts of shop theft, all from the BP garage in West Street, Westcliff, and two Co-op stores, in Sutton Road and London Road, Southend, between  December 3 and February 18.

Altogether, he stole £997.86 of alcohol, meat, coffee, chocolates and toiletries.

Knight, of Dalys Road, Rochford, also admitted, using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress to a member of Co-op staff on February 16. 

The shoplifter was handed a 24-month community order on Wednesday, with a six-month ban from any BP garage or Co-op store in Essex.

Knight was also referred to Phoenix Futures for six months of drug rehabilitation activity and ordered to pay a £114 victim surcharge.

Southend city centre's policing team launched Operation Raker last year to target persistent offenders who were responsible for a number of thefts, assaults and public order offences.

PC Ben Leaver identified Knight from CCTV footage and later arrested him at his home.

After the hearing, PC Leaver said: “We want to make sure our high streets and shopping areas are safe for people to work in and visit.

“And Operation Raker was set up to focus on habitual offenders who cause the most harm in these places.

“Some commit crimes to fund their drug or alcohol addictions and, where we identify this, we point them in the direction of rehabilitation services.

“While, at court, we can also apply for conditions to be imposed to attend assessments and rehabilitation activity.

“We can also ask for prolific offenders to be banned from entering the stores they target the most, to protect staff and customers from their offending behaviour.

“In Knight’s case, we asked for both.”