Chief inspector Patrick Holdaway, of the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC) has advised retailers not to publish CCTV images of retail crime offenders on social media.

The comments came after retailers told betterRetailing they wanted clarity on the legalities of uploading CCTV to social media to appeal for perpetrators’ names.

Holdaway told betterRetailing that he doesn’t endorse using CCTV in this way. “I understand why retailers do it, but it can influence court cases and can prejudice others,” he said. “I would advise retailers against it. Instead, I would encourage them to let the police do it with a bit more structure.”

When asked about the effectiveness of CCTV as a deterrent, Holdaway questioned its viability. “I think the use of CCTV varies depending on the area,” he said.

“CCTV systems are expensive. It depends where you are and what sort of problems you are facing.”

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He suggested retailers should focus instead on a wider range of security measures that funding could be applied to.

Holdaway revealed that the government might revisit the Safer Streets Fund in January.

The £25m fund, first announced by the home secretary in October, would enable police and crime commissioners to bid for security improvements in local areas, such as improved street lighting.

“Although this fund has been pulled because of the general election, I’m told that it’s perhaps going to come back at the end of January,” said Holdaway.

“It will have limitations, but, with a coordinated approach, it could help improve issues. It’s important to consider how expensive CCTV is.”

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Holdaway explained how he believed facial recognition to be the “next stage” in tackling crime. “I know its contentious, but could be useful if used correctly,” he said.

“It’s important to mention the success South Wales police had when they trialled it. If it ensures safety in shops, then this might override some of the issues.”

Holdaway added that the NBCC is prioritising making crime easier to report. “Home Office data shows a 3.5% drop in shop theft, compared to the previous year which gives the impression it is no longer a problem, but we know this isn’t the case,” he said.

“It’s not all down to police not attending – it’s as much about retailers having less staff on the shop floor to cut costs which makes it difficult for staff to have the time to report a crime.”

He encouraged retailers to report crime online to save time. “We are looking at ways to improve online reporting, which is seeing huge growth,” he said.

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