Shopwatch Two Way Radio Scheme - Tackling Retail Crime and the Tourist Capital of Kent

The Canterbury scheme is identical to the scheme run in Dover and has 45 users in the scheme using Icom IC-F10 radio transceivers. Major High Street Retailers, the City Centre Policing Unit, the City Warden and the Canterbury CCTV unit are linked to this scheme.

The scheme has grown rapidly and now stretches the length of the major thoroughfare from the old Bus station to the Westgate Towers in what is arguably one of the busiest cities in the United Kingdom. City retailers now have a method of very quickly alerting other shops in the area to the activities of shoplifters who may target their stores. Additionally, the local police are able to monitor the channel and respond instantly if needed.

Barry Beckingham, Security Liaison to the scheme, believes that the system gels together and offers real benefits to its participants. He said, “Shopwatch has been a pro-active tool and has helped reduce crime in the city, as well as offering an overall benefit to the community”. There are real indications that crime has been reduced because of the scheme, as stock losses have dropped all over the city. Retailers feel more confident knowing that if they call for help, they will receive immediate backup from other shops and the Police, with live monitoring from the CCTV system.

Paul Jess, a Systems Engineer at Smye Rumsby, believes that the scheme has tremendous benefits for users. “The system provides retailers with an overwhelming feeling of security and co-operation”. His company offers full support for retailers, including supply of the radio system, staff training in radio procedure, replacement and repair of equipment (within ½ an hour if needed) and comprehensive technical support.

Shopwatch management meetings are run bi-monthly. Issues discussed at these meetings range from voice procedures to experience gained from other schemes, such as the system in Dover. As a result, radio procedures have improved and operators are now able to give clear descriptions of suspects to other users. This has allowed security staff to monitor and apprehend offenders very quickly.

Nick Betts, Director of Nasons and the Chairman of the Canterbury City Centre Initiative, said “Shopwatch has brought extra security to city retailers, who now feel at ease with the system. Increased communications through use of the radio system has improved co-operation among shop-owners and their staff.”

To assist retailers, the Police supply members of the scheme with photographs of active local criminals and others who target stores in the area. This enables shop staff to identify potential offenders and alert all members of the scheme to their presence and location. Inspector Ray Carver, Community and Crime Reduction Co-ordinator, said, “This scheme has significantly benefited police operations and offender targeting, enabling us to work with the retail community to reduce stock loss and arrest offenders who target the City. Canterbury, like all major Cities, is a magnet for travelling criminals and this scheme enables us to respond very quickly to suspicious incidents reported by retailers. The scheme has also been used to launch the Safe Child Initiative, which aims to quickly reunite lost children and their parents. The potential for improved community safety is limitless.”

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