MALVERN looks set to lead the way in tackling crime throughout Worcestershire after a nationwide scheme was launched in the town.
Facewatch provides an online portal for police and business to work together to reduce criminal activity. It will be piloted in Malvern in a bid to fend off shoplifters, who have recently come from as far afield as Liverpool.
The retail-led scheme, which is already used by ten forces throughout the UK, gives shops the chance to share images of offenders online and submit digital evidence to the police to help solve crimes.
It was officially launched at Clarence Park Village on Tuesday (June 30) and PCSO Lisa Freeman, of the Link and Dyson Safer Neighbourhood Team, told The Observer Malvern and Hereford will trial the project before it rolls into the rest of West Mercia and Warwickshire.
“We know who our local shoplifters are,” she said. “The problem we have at the minute is the bigger towns are banning their regular shoplifters from town centres and we are getting people coming from Gloucester, Leamington and even Liverpool.
“They are coming far and wide and we are not aware of who these people are, so it is helping raise awareness of the people coming from outside.
“Across the country shoplifting has gone up, we are trying to get in before that comes to us as a preventative measure.”
The online portal, which police and selected business members will have access to, means shops can upload information, CCTV images and brief statements for police to see.
PCSO Freeman said the process took about ten minutes, rather than the ten days it would sometimes take for an officer to go out to a theft, but insisted Facewatch was not about cutting down on police responses.
“If there is an obtrusive shoplifter in store people should still call 999 and we will attend,” she added. “We are not cutting that out, it is about cutting down on time which no one really has these days.
“If it is an instant theft and the offender has left the store, the shop can let others know in the area by sending that image around.
“They can also do it if they have banned someone from the store, they can alert other shops that this person has been banned.”
Facewatch, which costs £3 a month, will be used in Great Malvern, Malvern Link, Malvern Retail Park and Barnards Green.
Visit www.facewatch.co.uk/cms/ for more information.