FEATURE: Technology tackling shop thefts

Witnesses can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
Witnesses can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

State of the art walkie talkie-style radios have been issued to shopkeepers in a bid to ensure shoplifting crimes are over and out in Bicester.

The digital technology allows stores to communicate with each other instantly and warn if a potential shoplifter is on route.

Sgt Steve Willis

Sgt Steve Willis

Each trader also has a ‘rogues gallery’ photo album so they can easily recognise pictures of known offenders.

The moves are all part of a mission by Thames Valley Police and Cherwell Crime Partnership to slash shop thefts, which cost traders thousands of pounds every year,

Every year there are 330 reported shoplifting offences in town – one for almost every day stores are open. Statistics suggest as many as nine times as many incidents go unreported.

But thanks to an “excellent” CCTV system many of the culprits are rapidly identified, caught and punished.

Police have recently been sending increasing numbers of CCTV photos to be printed Crimewatch-style in the Advertiser – and already the results have been spectacular.

One light-fingered offender panicked so much when he saw his photo in the paper that he promptly went to the police station and handed himself in.

Bicester neighbourhood police spokesman Sergeant Steve Willis said: “The success rate for offenders identified so far has been between 60 per cent and 70 per cent and it has encouraged retailers to take a keener interest in who comes into their premises and who is in the town centres.”

Police have also taken to Twitter to get the message across to shopkeepers as well as the public. Already they have 1,200 followers.

Said Sgt Willis; “Enlisting public support and participation in the location of wanted persons means that the police can work more effectively to bring offenders to justice.”

The Cherwell Crime Partnership has praised the police for making shoplifters so high profile.

Kym Curtis, crime manager of the partnership’s Bicester branch said: “This has been a very positive move by Thames Valley Police.  We are now able to broadcast wanted images of our local shoplifters – offenders who have failed to answer bail or appear at court. This means that they no longer have the benefit of anonymity and their ability to commit further offences has been reduced, this adds to the security and safety of our members and is a welcome addition to our services.”   

According to the British Retail Consortium, shoplifting is at its highest level for nine years but new figures show that only ten per cent of these crimes are reported to police.

But since the crime partnership began, shoplifting in Bicester has reduced by 23 per cent – despite figures surging nationally.

Police say the offences locally are committed by “a small number of people” who quickly become familiar faces.

Said Sgt Willis: “Bicester Town has two dedicated Police Officers (PC Lees & PC Hopkins) as well as two dedicated PCSO’s (Newall & Ritchie). These officers have forged excellent relationships with our local shops which has been key in giving them the confidence to report crime to us so we can attempt to bring offenders to justice.

“We also work closely with the Cherwell District Council Street Wardens who are aware of specific issues around the town and add an extra dimension to our patrol capability.”

Any trader can join the Cherwell Crime Partnership and sign up to receive an MRs digital portable radio on http://www.cherwellsafe.org