'Prolific' shoplifters could be banned from city centre in fresh crackdown
PUBLISHED: 15:04 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:00 16 October 2019
Prolific shoplifters could be banned from the city centre and retailers will be asked to create their own reports in a bid to tackle thefts in Norwich amid a "harsh economic climate".
Historically criminal behaviour orders (CBO) have been used for street drinkers and beggars to crack down on anti-social behaviour.
But police have said there is a "high rate" of shoplifting in the city centre, with much of it going unreported. They now plan to use CBOs to get a grasp on the problem.
While reported shoplifting in Norwich has fallen by 20pc in the last two years, more than half are in the city centre shopping districts.
Two new roles have been created for retail beat managers - constables whose sole priority is tackling shoplifting.
Since coming into post in August they say three of the city's "most prolific" shoplifters are now serving time in custody.
Officers said businesses often won't report shoplifting as long as they have recovered the stolen items, leaving the crime under reported.
"It is fair to say businesses haven't been working as well with the police as either partner would want," said retail beat manager for Norwich East, PC James Chard. "A lot of it does go undetected at the moment.
"There are certain attitudes to shoplifting where people perhaps aren't reporting it. They have been getting their goods back and kicking that person out [of the store].
"It was felt the constabulary could better solve their issues by allocating two officers to work on this and get to know the shoplifters, get to know the staff in the stores, and problem solve together."
The officers will tap in to the ALERT radio system run by Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), and give shops a "single point of contact" to report thefts.
Norwich BID added the city has a pilot scheme through which businesses now generate their own crime reports.
"It is one of the first across the whole country using online systems to allow the stores to do their own reporting," said BID director Stefan Gurney.
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"That means we are not wasting police time or staff time and the whole process is streamlined so it works much more effectively."
He said staff can often become "tied up" dealing with people caught shoplifting, and the dedicated officers will help free up their time.
"You then have the impact on the member of staff who deals with the incident, especially if there is violence or abuse," he said.
"We have had some very serious violent incidents on staff, and no one wants to have that in their workplace."
Police will also be using community protection warnings and notices and criminal behaviour orders for the worst offenders.
"After they have been convicted we can start looking at community protection warnings, notices and orders," said Norwich East retail beat manager, PC Ali Tassie.
"That is normally for beggars or street drinkers but is something we are going to use for our prolific shoplifters.
"We will be working with the shops on how they can generate their own statements, and Norwich BID use ALERT radios which various stores have as a communication device to let each other know who is about."
PC Tassie added the city's "top three prolific shoplifters" have all been arrested and charged since August.
A man in his 20s is now serving 52 weeks for nine shop thefts, and a woman in her 40s is on a 10 week sentence for four shop thefts.
Another man in his 30s has been remanded in custody charged with nine shop thefts and is awaiting sentence at Norwich Crown Court.
Mr Gurney said the impact of shoplifting is severe for stores already struggling in a troubled economy.
"There is a lot of impact on the bottom line for businesses and it is an additional cost passed on to the consumer," he said.
"The more impact we can have to reduce that; the more viable the business community is, especially in a very harsh economic climate on the high street."