Retailers are turning to special crime wardens with ‘targeted police powers’ to tackle rising business crime and years of police cuts.

The number of police officers has fallen by 50,000 in the past seven years, leaving retailers and local authorities looking for other ways to tackle retail crime.

In Sussex, where they have lost 700 police officers since 2010 and need to achieve £50m of cuts by 2021, an 18-month trial funded by the Home Office and The Southern Co-operative saw SWL Security Services guards hired as ‘business wardens’. They patrolled and reported business crime, and in February, the wardens were given ‘targeted police powers’ with which to confront crime.

“Because wardens are trained to secure the best physical evidence and take statements, they are helping businesses save time and reducing demands on police,” said Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

“Our wardens know their area and are linked with the local community safety agencies, with offender management units and Sussex Police, and they are dedicated to the business community in their patch.”

However, the deployment of private security with police powers was strongly criticised by Sussex Police Federation Chairman Matt Web who said: “We welcome any relief, but these schemes create more work for officers. It’s a uniformed con for businesses and the public, policing on the cheap. The role of preventing crime for businesses and the public should be and is the role of trained police officers.”

Shoplifting
Shoplifting accounts for 45% of all business crime in Sussex. while crimes at a convenience stores represent 8.7% of the total number of business crimes.

While wardens are on the front line, business crime associations are dealing with back office duties and are being expanded throughout the country. National Association of Business Crime Partnerships CEO Richard Barron told Retail Express: “The withdrawal of police resources from business crime and community policing means retailers will have to bear the brunt of responsibility when it comes to tackling retail crime.”

He continued: “Businesses are stepping up to the plate. We’ve now got well over 100 schemes operating across the UK.”

One of the most successful business crime partnerships is in Brighton. Business crime reduction manager for Brighton and Hove, Lisa Perretta said: “It’s so successful in removing business crime from the area that other towns have seen a large displacement effect. This has led to more and more towns launching similar schemes.”

Keith Marlow, owner of Convenience Corner in Brighton, told Retail Express: “I’ve been a member since the beginning, the more we all stick together, the more it works.”

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