The expansion of Stockland Green Hills remains to be a thorn in the side for Maitland police as new crime statistics show a huge increase in retail theft in Maitland.
Steal from retail store offences climbed 38.6 per cent from 368 in the 12 months to March 2018 - when the expansion was complete - to 510 in the following 12 months, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
The new data released on Thursday shows that retail theft was the only major crime that increased significantly in Maitland.
Other crimes that went up slightly included domestic violence assaults (454 to 475), sexual assaults (73 to 88) and indecent assaults (101 to 120).
On the opposite end of the scale, stealing from motor vehicle offences went down by 24.7 per cent from 659 to 496, while malicious damage also decreased from 889 to 716 - a 19.5 per cent drop.
In a bid to quell the retail theft issue, police have thrown greater resources at Stockland Green Hills since the centre's expansion.
Just last Saturday, Port Stephens-Hunter police ran an operation at the shopping centre in which five charges were laid and three infringements were handed out for shoplifting and trespassing offences.
Police run the 'sticky fingers' operations regularly, using overt and covert approaches to detect offenders.
Port Stephens-Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector George Radmore said retail theft had been significantly increasing in the district since the 2016/17 financial year.
He said improvements in CCTV footage had contributed to higher detection rates.
"The viability of investigation by police has also been a likely cause in the increased reporting of retail theft to police, as the availability of CCTV indicates a greater potential to identify and prosecute offenders," Inspector Radmore said.
He said there had been an upward trend in retail theft across the state.
As well as the 'sticky fingers' operations, Port Stephens-Hunter police have also implemented a property crime team which circulates CCTV footage of offenders to identify them, both within police systems and through social media.
"There have been instances of offenders handing themselves in to police after publishing these images due to the public shame and community backlash against their involvement in those offences," Inspector Radmore said.