TWO cardboard cut-outs of policemen, which were designed to deter thieves from shoplifting, have been stolen in south Essex in the past year.

Essex Police was also the victim of 18 thefts from its own vehicles over a period of two years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

One model bobby was taken from an unnamed shop in Canvey, in August, and another from one in Westcliff, in October.

The cut-outs haven’t been found.

In 2010, the service scrapped an initial £2,000 trial of using the cut-outs as a deterrent for theft after they became a target for thieves and pranksters.

Other items taken include a mountain bike and documents from a residential property in Tilbury, in August 2012, which were subsequently found by police.

A wing mirror from a police car was taken in Grays, in November 2012.

Police entry equipment was also stolen from a public area in Leigh in September of that year.

The Freedom of Information request revealed items with a combined value of £26,691 were stolen across the county in 2012 and 2013.

The list of reported incidents includes the theft of a 16-seater minibus from the force’s headquarters in Chelmsford in May last year.

The minibus, valued at £20,000, was removed from Essex Police headquarters in Kingston Crescent, Chelmsford, overnight in May. An Essex Police spokesman said: “The keys had been taken from a secure office by unknown means. It was driven a total of three miles and then returned to the HQ.”

Items worth more than £3,000, including mobile phones and cameras, have been stolen and not recovered.

The spokesman said: “Essex Police officers and staff are obviously very aware of the need to take steps to secure any property left unattended.

“The nature of policing does mean, though, that sometimes when responding to urgent incidents property security cannot be the main priority.

“While sensible crime prevention measures can help reduce the risks of theft they cannot eliminate them altogether and inevitably the force will occasionally become a victim itself.

“All these thefts will have been investigated.

“Those that remain undetected can be subject to further review if new evidence comes to light.”

Suspects have not been identified in half of the 18 cases, including the minibus theft.

The list of crimes includes two acts of theft by an Essex Police employee, who stole uniform and accessories worth £2,500, plus £200 in cash, from police premises in Clacton in June 2012.