Speaking at Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s annual conference this month, he said police and independents must use innovation to help fight crime alongside more robust policing to tackle the problem.
In particular, he highlighted his use of the Sentry SIS software system, which enables police, retailers, crime reduction partnerships and business-improvement districts, among others, to share information in real-time.
“Although we invest in crime-reduction methods, we do not have access to the more sophisticated security that larger stores have. But this system enables me to share intelligence and information with other retailers about active offenders. It is quick and simple to use with online statements and uploading of CCTV that can save the retailer and police officers time,” he said.
However, Birks warned that while technology provided one tool, retailers also needed to have confidence in the police to respond to incidents.
“Sadly, there is still significant under-reporting of crime particularly for shop theft. When asked, 33% of respondents to The Fed’s own retail crime surveys said they believed the police were unable to adequately prosecute shoplifters,” he added.
Birks went on to highlight the police and the Crown Prosecution Service’s role to ensure new law The Fed campaigned to introduce, is fully enforced.
The amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Act took effect this year, meaning common assault against anyone working in a retail store is now classed as an aggravated offence, carrying tougher penalties.
Laying bare the impact of retail crime on shop workers Birks used his own experience to raise awareness further.
“In the past five years, my wife has been subject to a knifepoint robbery and an incident in which two men entered the store with hammers and smashed the counter and screens.
“The emotional scars will live with her forever. Being attacked verbally or physically while just going about your daily business should never be seen as ‘just part of the job’,” he said.
According to the British Retail Consortium, incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers in 2020-21 almost tripled from 455 daily incidents to 1,300.
Since May 2021, The Fed has contacted more than half of all PCCs to raise awareness of the impact that crime has on people working in retail.
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