BUSINESSES are breathing a "sigh of relief" after Bolton town centre's most prolific thief was locked up.

Despite still being a teenager, Patrick Cullen has committed 62 crimes, many of them burglaries and thefts from shops in the town centre.

Bolton Crown Court heard how 19-year-old Cullen used the proceeds of his crime spree to support himself after leaving care, but the damage he caused, often for goods worth less than £200, ran into several thousand pounds and in one case, almost put a shop out of business.

Sentencing him to two and a half years in a Young Offenders' Institution, Judge Timothy Stead told Cullen: "You are someone who make their way in the world by stealing and committing burglaries of commercial premises."

Cullen, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to burgling Poundstretcher in Knowsley Street on October 12 last year and twice burgling B&M Bargains on Manchester Road on November 15 and 20. He also admitted shoplifting at Sainsbury's on November 18 and Wilko on November 11.

The teenager denied burgling Clintons card shop in Market Street on October 5 but was found guilty following a trial.

Elizabeth Evans, prosecuting, told how Cullen and two others had smashed the shop's front window and he was seen on CCTV stuffing Yankee Candles into a backpack.

In a victim statement the shop supervisor, Zoe Strudwick, told how the £2,000 window repair had almost wiped out their profits and nearly led to the closure of the shop, with the loss of six jobs.

Cullen used the same method at three other burglaries, where windows were smashed. Coffee products, worth £418 were taken from Poundstretcher, where damage amounted to £5,000 and at B&M Bargains Lottery scratchcards, headphones, bottles of spirits and a charity box were taken.

Electrical items were stolen when he shoplifted at Sainsbury's and Nivea gift sets were taken from Wilko.

Verity Quaite, defending, stressed: "He is a very young man with an unenviable record. It is indicative of his situation. These are acquisitive offences — he is stealing to fund his drug habit and to support himself."

Speaking after the sentencing Bolton town centre neighbourhood beat officer, PC Rick Charlesworth said local businesses would "breathe a sigh of relief".

He added: "I wish he would help himself. We have offered a lot of assistance to him because of his chaotic lifestyle. He has refused all that.

"Just has been served for the victims because he has caused a lot alarm and distress to the workforce in Bolton.

"He was causing an awful lot of damage. It has cause a lot of anxiety to the workers who have been threatened with the loss of employment as a result and the fear of what they are going to come across when they come into the store."