POLICE say a shop radio scheme has helped them cut shoplifting in Spalding by almost a third – although crime in Holbeach did rise in the same period.
Spalding Inspector Paul Timmins spoke to traders at Tuesday’s Spalding and District Area Chamber of Commerce meeting about the virtues of the Crime Reduction Action South Holland (CRASH) scheme.
People who pay to take part in CRASH are given radios to link to other businesses and police so they can share information about people stealing in their stores in a bid to track, catch and prevent criminals.
Insp Timmins said that, with about 29 radios in operation, shoplifting incidents in Spalding dropped from 306 in 2008 to 214 in 2009. In Holbeach, where there is not a CRASH radio scheme, shoplifting incidents when up from 106 in 2008 to 190 in 2009.
Insp Timmins said: “We could speculate all day but criminals do travel and if it is becoming more difficult to shoplift in Spalding then potentially people are going to Holbeach to commit crime.
“I think there is a perception that there isn’t a problem in Holbeach despite figures that would perhaps be contrary. The cost element has probably caused a problem too.”
Insp Timmins said that incidents of violence in the town centre had also gone down, from 295 in 2008 to 216 in 2009, partly due to the radio link.
Small businesses pay £100 a year to be part of CRASH plus £6.50 a week for the use of a radio – although a countywide project by the Chamber of Commerce may see the costs come down. A core of at least six businesses would be needed to roll the scheme out in Holbeach.
CRASH co-ordinator Barry Inman said that there are currently 19 serial offenders who are banned from shops in Spalding. Their pictures are circulated to traders who can bar them from entering their stores.
He told traders: “I issue photos of these people and then you can identify the people who come into your shop with the sole intention of stealing.
“Any individual business has the right to ban anybody from their store but it’s better to share that information with CRASH so you are not the only person to stop being hit.
“You don’t have to give a reason – you can just tell the person that you don’t want their custom. It does work and has done pretty well in this town.”
The radios also link to the CCTV control room so operators can track offenders.
The police have struggled to find enough volunteers to man the cameras. Insp Timmins told the meeting that the control room is now manned from 8am to 7 or 8pm most days but he still hopes to find more people in a bid to make the coverage 24/7.