'Intimidating': shoppers react to police with dogs in Chapelfield
PUBLISHED: 08:08 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:02 19 December 2019
Shoppers have raised concerns that high-profile police patrols at Chapelfield could be "intimidating" and put people off from visiting the centre.
Yesterday saw the launch of Project Servator, a police initiative aimed at "disrupting" crime in the Chapelfield area by identifying suspicious or criminal behaviour.
Six uniformed officers, a dog unit and several undercover officers were stationed in the busy shopping centre in the afternoon, speaking to shoppers about the project.
Chief Insp Craig Miller, who is leading the scheme, said stationing visible officers in and around the shopping centre would "provide reassurance" to the public.
He added that icebreakers such as police dogs would help spark conversations about crime.
He said: "When you see six police officers all in one place it does make people wonder what's gone wrong. But the visibility is about engagement and if you're just passing through and looking to enjoy yourself, you have nothing to worry about.
"However if you're here with criminal intent then you will find the experience very uncomfortable."
The initial reaction from some shoppers was not positive.
Kaleigh Rhodes, from Stalham, said: "It makes it look like the city is dangerous, it's worrying. I feel self-conscious knowing they're there."
Rob Pascuzzi, also from Cambridge, said: "It's weird seeing them here. It's good they're stopping theft but I do wonder if people are going to be freaked out by it."
Chris Stenhouse, from Norwich, said: "I don't like it, it creates an unfriendly atmosphere. Having this many police around is slightly intimidating. It reflects badly on modern society."
Emma Montanna, from Cambridge, said seeing the officers made her concerned a serious incident had happened. But she added: "If they want us to talk to them then having the dog there definitely works."
But Poppy Chapman, who works for Macarons and More, said: "it's nice to see them. They're trying their best and it makes me feel calmer."
As part of the scheme, police hope to increase engagement with the public, and encourage them to act as "an extra set of eyes and ears" for officers.
Six to 10 uniformed officers will be out at any one time, with shift patterns set to be "unpredictable" to prevent criminals synchronising their activity to avoid detection.
Martin Blackwell, head of operations at Norwich BID, said: "We think it's a great idea. It's reassuring to members of staff and helps them protect their stock and their colleagues. If it helps them head off problems that can only be a good thing."