A pioneering scheme is clamping down on shoplifters in Flintshire – thanks to cash confiscated from crooks.
Flintshire Against Business Crime (FABC) was set up just over a year ago to help its members keep track of sneak thieves by swapping vital information using a digital radio network.
And it received a big cash boost in from a special crime-busting fund backed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
The Your Community, Your Choice initiative is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Much of the money was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s budget.
FABC was originally went on air to serve the two Flintshire towns of Mold and Flint and to build on its early success it is currently being extended to other busy shopping centres at Connahs Quay and Shotton on Deeside along with Buckley and Saltney.
The £2,500 received from Your Community Your Choice has been spent on buying extra radio handsets and other electronic infrastructure for the new areas.
To see for himself how FABC operates as grassroots level, the Police and Crime Commissioner was invited to one of the regular monthly meetings it holds for its members in Mold.
Held at the Iceland store in Ruthin Road which is a member of the scheme, the Mold meeting was attended by a dozen traders and also the area’s two Police Community Support Officers.
Discussion centred on the latest intelligence sheet issued by FABC which features pictures of known shoplifters – sometimes with names – taken from in-store security cameras.
A number of the project members also shared their own information about likely thieves – some of them young children – they had indentified in their own stores.
Business crime support officer Charlie Mobbs, who works with FABC, said: “The aim of the project is to prevent and deter shoplifting and anti-social behaviour by allowing members to gain and share knowledge about who is in an area at any particular time.
“The digital radio system initially operated with 40 sets in Flint and Mold and quickly proved its worth with one retailer describing it as `priceless’ and another telling us that it in its first few weeks it was used to deter three known shoplifters.
“The £2,500 received from Your Community You Choice was a brilliant boost for the project and has now allowed us to have a further 60 or so radio handsets in other towns across the county where the extended project should be up and running by next spring.
“The radio network works alongside an internet system which businesses can log onto to share information about crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The link project has impacted squarely on crime and anti-social behaviour by enabling shops to talk directly to the council’s CCTV system and police.
“Shops can also speak to each other about known offenders in the area, issuing alerts where necessary.
“CCTV can be brought into action faster to record visual evidence and the police are able to deter crime by early interventions.”
Steph Roberts, manager of Iceland, was pleased with the way the project was operating.
She said: “I think it’s brilliant and shows what can be achieved by co-operation between the businesses.
“All we have to do is shout out to one another when we spot shoplifters on our premises and then we can keep track of where they are going.
“Meetings like the one we’ve had today are also useful for sharing any information we might have amongst the scheme members.”
After sitting in on the meeting, Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “I was delighted to be asked to attend and was extremely impressed by the number of businesses represented and the work that is being done to address shoplifting on their properties.
“The scheme has now been spread to other parts of Flintshire and the money from last year’s round of Your Community Your Choice has been well spent on additional radios for businesses to communicate with each other, and with the police and CCTV, if and when a crime occurs so they can pass the information on.
“This project is something which could be spread to other areas of North Wales. The PACT bids are open for anyone to apply for money and projects like this I am sure would be considered favourably.”
PACT chairman David Williams added: “I am delighted Flintshire Against Business Crime are putting the money to such good use.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way and FABC are certainly ticking the box in that respect.”