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Police crackdown bags more shoplifters in North Wales

PACT; Retail theft; Pictured Supt Jon Bowcott , NWP and Ashley Rogers ; Chair of PACT . Picture Mandy Jones

A police crackdown on retail crime across North Wales has led to a “hugely positive” 9%  increase in the detection rate for shoplifting that’s bucking the UK trend.

But the officer running the campaign, Supt Jon Bowcott, says he’s not resting on his laurels and is the first to admit there’s still a lot of work to do. 

Since last Autumn he’s been the North Wales Police lead on retail crime and he’s set up a task force to combat it.

Supt  Bowcott will be giving an update on the crackdown and offering advice and guidance at a special conference – titled Protect Your Business! Expert Session – that’s free for North Wales businesses next month.

The event between 10.30am and 1pm on Thursday, March 7, at the Scala Cinema in Prestatyn, is being organised by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) in conjunction with North Wales Police and the North Wales Business Council. 

Other speakers will be focusing on how businesses can guard against cyber crime and property theft as well as dealing with anti-social behaviour and spotting the signs of modern day slavery.

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The renewed push on detecting retail crime in the region comes against a backdrop of a significant increase in offences across the UK – with a 32% hike in England and a 36% rise in Wales as a whole.

While the 24%  increase in North Wales is smaller, there have been 800 more shoplifting offences  reported in the region since last April, compared to the previous year.

The good news is that a growing number of shoplifting crimes are being now detected as a result of the force’s campaign.

When it started in the Autumn, the detection rate was running at 29% and had increased to just over 38% during January.

The onslaught has been particularly effective in Wrexham where there has been a 9.6% drop in the number of shoplifting offences.

Supt Bowcott said: “There has been a national trend where retail theft was increasingly dealt with over the phone if the offender wasn’t there.

“We’re moving away from that and switching it around so that the default option is that we will attend when retail thefts have been committed, particularly where an offender has been detained, where violence has been used or threatened or where there are enquiries at the scene the would benefit from an officer attending.  

“To oversee our response and analyse performance I am chairing a coordination group made up of key individuals from across the force to ensure we continue to make progress.

“Essentially, we are having a renewed focus on combatting retail crime because it’s about fulfilling the message of our mission to make North Wales the safest place to live, work and visit in the UK.

“Cracking down on retail crime aligns well the force’s vision set by our Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman and is absolutely the right thing to do.

“We started this half way through the crime recording year which runs April to April and, despite an increase in reporting which is a national trend,  we have seen an increase in the outcome rates in the past three or four months.

“When we started we were detecting around 29 per cent of shoplifting incidents and the monthly positive outcome rate for January was 38.3 per cent so we are seeing green shoots but we are not complacent because there is more to do.

“It’s not just about convicting people either  because I recognise there are people who struggling with substance misuse  or other difficulties so we are also involved with our prevention team who look at methods of offender management that can address some of their lifestyle challenges and sign post them to support.

“One area I want to develop is dealing with repeat offenders to prevent that demand happening. Dealing with the prolific offenders can have a big impact – probably 80 per cent of offending is carried out by 20 per cent of offenders.”

According to Ashley Rogers, the Chair of PACT and Chief Executive of the North Wales Business Council, the improvement in the detection rate for shoplifting was “hugely positive and encouraging” news.

He said: “Coming out of Covid, people’s behaviour is different and the economy is different and retail theft has increased as well as a perception that anti-social behaviour has become more of a problem.

“For North Wales businesses who are on the front line in terms of handling these issues, it’s really valuable to have an insight from the experts along with guidance  how to manage things if and when it happens or even avoid it by designing your premises in such a way that would discourage it.

“Over and above that you have the scourge of exploitative modern slavery and there are elements of the problem, like the involvement of organised gangs, that businesses might not be aware of.

“It’s really important that businesses are able to spot the signs of this insidious, often hidden crime, so they can report any suspicions to the police. In uncertain economic times it’s never been more important for us all to pull together to make North Wales an even safer place, especially with the very high cost of living.”

For more information and to book a place go to  https://bit.ly/49zq4t9

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