Technology targets Christmas thieves

AS Christmas approaches, shoplifters have today been warned of the extra efforts being made to combat them thanks to new technology.

AS Christmas approaches, shoplifters have today been warned of the extra efforts being made to combat them thanks to new technology.

Traditionally retail crime rockets over the festive period due to overcrowded shops and a rise in goods on offer but staff at the Ipswich Partnership today said offenders were being watched.

Ben Collins, project co-ordinator for the partnership, set up to improve the town centre, said advances in technology were making it easier for businesses to monitor criminals and information could be shared more readily.

He said: “If you are thinking about coming to town to cause trouble and steal, there are systems in place and they are working.

“You are likely to be caught and you will regret it.”

Businesses in the town centre continue to communicate via the Town Link radio system which enables them to alert each other when shoplifters are in town and trace them as they make their escape.

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For the past year Ipswich has also been signed up to the National Business Information System (NBIS), a computer database which allows access to offender's details and patterns of behaviour.

Clare Bagley, safer business co-ordinator for the partnership, is the only person who can access the information but said it is proving and invaluable tool in the fight against retail crime.

She said: “NBIS has led to two people being served with anti-social behaviour orders in the last couple of months - one is banned from the town centre completely and the second is a prolific offender who is allowed into the town centre but is not allowed to enter any retail outlets except for the Co-op pharmacy.

“The aim is to build a pattern of offenders. It has been in place for just over a year and we have got about 350 incidents on it.

“It gives stats and trends about when they [offenders] tend to come into town and what stores they are hitting more often and what they are stealing.”

Mrs Bagley said the town's approach to retail crime had helped keep levels fairly consistent in the last few years.

Despite national figures revealing shoplifting has gone up 70per cent in the last five years, in Ipswich there were nearly 100 less retail crimes in 2005/06 than in 2001/02.

Mrs Bagley said she hopes levels will drop next year with further use of NBIS and the creation of street rangers, which will be paid for with funding from the town's Business Improvement District.

The rangers will work as the eye and ears of businesses and will be able to provide intelligence through the Town Link radio system.

What do you think should be done to combat retail crime? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail