Offices across Merseyside will clamp down on robbers seeking to make the most of the festive season by stealing from shops, bookmakers, pubs and other businesses in the run up to Christmas.
Traditionally at this time of the year thieves step up a gear – shops are stocking up for Christmas, members of the public are buying Christmas presents and business is booming – and some would-be thieves think some businesses are easy pickings. Police and businesses in Merseyside are working hard to make sure that is not the case.
The message is clear - Christmas is a time for giving, not taking. And thanks to this initiative, launching today (Thursday, 10 November 2016), and work with businesses to improve security measures, opportunities for would-be offenders will be limited and there will be no hiding place.
The event follows the launch of 'Gamble Watch' where the police, environmental health, the gambling commission, pubs, betting shops, amusement arcades and bingo halls all work together to prevent business robberies and share information about offenders.
Posters and leaflets will be distributed by officers to every business of this type across Liverpool in the run to Christmas to educate staff about ensuring they have very little readily accessible cash available, how to report suspicious behaviour and ensure they have maximum security measures in place.
Communities in each of the five force areas (Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, Liverpool and St Helens) will see an increased presence in their town centres and shopping parades.
High visibility and plain clothes officers will patrol key vulnerable locations for retail crime across the county in a bid to deter criminals attempting to target retail premises.
DNA security sprays, fogging machines and tagging systems will continue to be installed at selected business premises.
Stores have been fitted with DNA security sprays so that members of staff can mark criminals should they attempt to commit a robbery. This mark, unique to each shop or business, will then be visible under a UV light, and will make it much easier for officers to identify offenders. The use of forensic spray has been an invaluable tool used to help prevent business robberies and convict offenders.
Trackers will be attached to various items in retail stores - if they are stolen officers will be able to track where they are. Officers will also provide some vulnerable retailers with fogging devices, which can be set off by shopkeepers to disorientate offenders who threaten them, or demand cash or goods without any intention to pay for them. When detonated the fogging device will fill the store with a thick fog, which will disorientate offenders and along with the use of the forensic spray should act as a deterrent.
The Christmas crackdown has been welcomed by the region's Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who said: "Local shops and businesses provide a vital service that we all rely on. The people who run and staff these businesses don’t deserve to be threatened or attacked in exchange for their hard work.
"The impact on those on the receiving end of such crimes can be huge. Some people never recover from the violence they experience. Businesses can also be hugely damaged and even be forced to close their doors.
"That's why I welcome and support the Force's Christmas crackdown on retail crime and their efforts to use new technology, in conjunction with intelligence-led and high visibility policing, to keep these businesses safe. I would also echo the police’s warning to any would-be criminals; our businesses are not easy pickings and anyone who targets them risks a long jail sentence."
Superintendent Jenny Sims said: "Sadly, in the run up to Christmas some people see our retail premises as an easy target. We continue to target offenders and make arrests and our message is clear - we are investing significant resources and criminals who target bookmakers are taking huge risks and facing increasingly lengthy prison sentences for very little reward indeed. We are working with retailers to reduce the amount held on premises that is accessible to as little as £50.
“The offenders who do chance their arm and try to commit a robbery will face in the region of five or even ten years in prison when they get caught so my question to them would be: is it really worth 5 years in prison for 50 quid?
“Business robberies are not victimless crimes. Many of our convenience stores are run by local people who just want to earn a living and provide for their families. The person serving behind the counter could be someone’s mum, sister or grandmother yet these criminals think nothing of pointing a gun or a weapon at them and screaming at them to open the till or safe. Some of these people are injured and others will be left permanently traumatised by such an incident.
"In the last few weeks the force has liaised with national retail outlets as well as smaller independent convenience stores to help them make their stores less attractive to potential offenders. In the weeks leading up to Christmas the force will be providing an intelligence-led response to retail crime and we will be carrying out high visibility policing in vulnerable locations providing support to local shops and businesses. The high visibility patrols will be complemented by plain clothes officers on the lookout for those intent on committing crime at local stores.
"Retail businesses provide a vital service to our communities, so preventing these crimes is in everyone's interest. The impact that these offences, particularly robbery, can have on those who work in the stores is huge. Sometimes if a store has been subjected to a robbery it can be difficult for staff to face going back in to work, as they fear it may happen again. We will not tolerate offenders who target local stores and create a climate of fear and intimidation and will use all the tools in our armoury to deter and prevent this type of crime and lock up those responsible for committing this retail crime."
Diane Nixon, franchisee at Bargain Booze on West Derby Road, said: "As a retailer living and working in Merseyside, I know that when a criminal steals from a store it can affect not just the member of staff there at the time, but the rest of the community too. The impact, both emotionally and financially through insurance claims, can last for many months and years after the incident.
“I am committed to making sure all my stores have the best security measures in place to make sure robbers realise as soon as they set foot inside a store that their chances of success are virtually non-existent. Thanks to Merseyside Police I have had DNA spray security installed in my shops.
“Any work to prevent robberies of businesses in Merseyside can only be a good thing and I’m giving today’s launch my full support.”
Find out more on the short video below: