Reduced budgets – and now the added challenge of Covid-19 – have forced police to concentrate their scarce resources where they can be most effective.
For retailers and licensees across the UK this has meant less police engagement in low level business crime such as shoplifting and anti-social behaviour around the night-time economy.
While police continue to urge local retail businesses and licensees to report such incidents to them, the perception is that they won’t follow them up.
Unsurprisingly, as a result there is substantial under-reporting of low-level business-related crime and ASB – and a growth in local business groups which enable their members to manage their own local crime problems without recourse to the police.
Business crime-reduction schemes: self-management of low-level crime
Today, around the country, thousands of independent, business-led shopwatches, pubwatches and other business-run crime reduction schemes gather information about local troublemakers and exclude the most troublesome from their premises.
Effectively they’re self-managing the crime and ASB of which they are victims.
Research shows schemes like these really work. Typically, where they manage local exclusion schemes, just one out of five first-time offenders go on to re-offend; of those that do, half don’t offend a third time.
Clearly such schemes don’t just benefit their members – they also serve the wider society too, by helping first-timers back on the straight-and-narrow without involving the police or the criminal justice system.
The police are major beneficiaries of such schemes too. While the schemes look after much low-level crime and ASB (especially in town- and city-centres) police can more effectively focus their resources on more serious crimes and more prolific offenders.
But there’s much more for both the police and the schemes here: the closest possible inter-working between them can generate more benefits still, and important ones too.
Police and business crime reduction partnerships
For police, business crime reduction schemes can help them identify and gather intel about the relatively small number of prolific offenders responsible for the great majority of shoplifting and business-related ASB – exactly the ones on which the police want to focus their time and resources.
They have much to gain, too, by accessing the communication channels that these schemes maintain with their members. Those using Disc can enable their policing partners to share police news, alerts, documents and information about up-coming local events directly and quickly with a community that is not always easy to reach.
Disc can also increase the level of crime reporting by members which police encourage. Scheme members who submit incident reports through Disc in order to support their exclusion scheme can quickly ‘escalate’ them into crime reports and send them, with optional Witness Statements, to the local force’s 101 desk or resolution centre with a click.
For the scheme’s part, working as closely as possible with local police brings important benefits in addition to helping them pursue prolific offenders through the Courts, perhaps to obtain Criminal Behaviour Orders or custodial sentences:
- Information sharing agreements: police forces can provide good-quality personal information about local offenders, including names and images; they’ll look for assurances that the schemes they deal with are properly constituted and managed;
- Joint operations: many local policing teams mount regular high-visibility trawls through local retail and night-time areas alongside scheme administrators, working together to identify known offenders in town and deter them from criminal activity; in some towns and city-centres, officers wear the scheme’s radio handsets to more quickly respond to requests for assistance by members;
- Staffing and accommodation: some forces provide low-cost (or even free) accommodation for larger schemes that require office space; officers can also participate in the administration of the schemes themselves, for example being sub-Administrators of its Disc system;
- Serving Exclusion Orders: it is best practice for schemes to serve ‘exclusion orders’ on offenders who have been banned from members’ premises; police can help here – either serving them in custody suites or delivering them to offenders’ homes;
- Contact Police & Crime Commissioners: every police force has a PCC (the Met has MOPAC) who have authority over policing policy and strategy; most are keen to support business crime reduction schemes in their area – sometimes financially; the closer an existing scheme works with local police the more visibility it will have with these important influencers.
Police will always attend serious incidents that involve immediate threat, irrespective of the value of any theft involved. But they are the first to admit that low-level business crime and ASB is a long way down their list of priority incidents.
Business crime reduction schemes provide local business with the tools to self-manage their own low level crime, and reduce its negative impact on their financial ‘bottom line’.
Working together is to the clear benefit of both – and the closer the inter-working, the greater the benefits for them – and the wider community.