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AABC Conference

by msecadm4921

Business has to fit in with police and not the other way around.

So the annual Action Against Business Crime conference heard from an ACPO speaker who admitted that police chiefs have ‘given up the struggle’ of trying to define business crime.

Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Peter Davies was speaking to the gathering of crime reduction partnerships at Nottingham on March 6. He is the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on security industry liaison, and on business crime in the East Midlands. As an alternative, he suggested to the audience – of police, partnership managers and heads of retail loss prevention – that they ‘identify the way business crime is inextricably linked with things police do see as important’. He gave as an example the City of London Police’s Project Griffin, working with private security on terrorism awareness. As for ACPO after years of trying giving up on defining business crime – without which, police can hardly be measured, or have targets or be held to account – ACC Davies said it was very difficult to draw the line between what is and isn’t a business crime. What are stolen tools from a worker’s van?

But ACPO has a working group on business crime, led by Warwickshire Deputy Chief Constable Andy Parker. Like ACPO, the group is there to influence rather than command – to develop policies, spread best practice, and so on. ACC Davies like other speakers at the event mentioned nationwide neighbourhood policing, making the point that an industrial estate, or a high street, is a neighbourhood, ‘eminently fittable within the police model of neighbourhood policing’. He gave the example of the business crime set-up in Lincoln funding police community support officers.

The national community safety plan 2008-11 is raising the profile of crime against business, he went on, and there may be an official commercial victimisation survey next year. He suggested that the Home Office may categorise commercial burglary and commercial robbery separately, so that for the first time police may be able to measure their performance in these business crime categories. “My personal view is that the business community needs to understand the best way to advance the agenda is to influence rather than demand. And the best way is to see the alignment between what business wants to achieve and what already exists in terms of the numerous priorities and demands of the police services. The links are very easily made if you look at it that way.” That said, a sign of how police treat business interests came later when ACC Davies admitted about his own force: “I have had to stand up in front of our business community [and say] we cannot afford a business crime officer.” His message to commerce seeking something from the police: either make it part of ‘business as usual’, or police cannot afford it. Again like some other speakers, he stressed local area agreements (LAAs) whereby the public services locally lay down what they will do.

Since 2004, business improvement districts (BIDs) have offered a way to make all businesses in an area pay for security and other improvements. Another speaker at AABC gave big city and county town examples of success. <br><br>No matter how wonderful your retail or other business is once a customer walks through the doors, if outside customers don’t feel safe or clean, they won’t visit. That was the theme for more than one speaker. Jacquie Reilly, BIDs director for the Association of Town Centre Management, described a BID. In brief, a proposal is put to a vote. If a majority inside the BID area say yes, there’s a levy on the rates. A BID may have several hundred thousand pounds a year to spend on, typically, patrollers, street cleaning, marketing and street furniture. The services are not replacing a council’s, but are extras, as asked for by the businesses. And as Jacquie Reilly said, security and safety is number one asked for, whether machines to remove chewing gum and graffiti, or ‘Blue Cap’ meeters and greeters in her two case studies, Bedford and the Broad Street pub area of Birmingham. Other possibilities are more CCTV, and ANPR.

A BID period is up to five years and the first BIDs are being voted on anew. The 63 so far have been in places ranging in size from London’s West End to Rugby, including some for industrial estates. The bugbear of any crime reduction partnership is member apathy – or shops not even paying to be members, but sharing in the same reduced crime as those public-spirited enough to pay. While BID ballot turnout varied, the BID managers have a known budget. In Broad Street, for instance, street wardens and advertising campaigns to encourage safer drinking seek to make the place safer-feeling. Reported crime has gone down and in 2006 the area gained the Safer Business Award from AABC, for its day and night-time economy. The then Home Secretary Dr John Reid visited as a seal of approval in 2007.

The business benefit: some hotels and others were finding Fridays and Saturdays were nights of ‘battening down the hatches’, and some businesses were finding it hard to recruit and retain staff, who did not feel safe at work or going home. Bedford’s annual BID budget – at £550,000 a year, more than Broad Street’s – has gone partly on brightly-jacketted ‘BlueCaps’ who in Jacquie Reilly’s words provide a friendly and watchful eye on the town centre. The patrollers, largely young, many women, visit premises, note problems, and are in radio contact with PCSOs – as in Lincoln, four are paid for by the BID – and police. There’s a dedicated town centre police team. Bedfordshire Police entered into a baseline agreement as to where and when the team will work. As a result police in the town centre have moved from being an ‘arrest squad’ to a ‘prevention squad’. The BID runs a retail radio link and equivalent Nightnet scheme, and runs a photo-exclusion scheme for the day and night-time economies. Reported crime and stock loss have fallen. <br><br>Richard Barron, previously a regional manager for AABC, is now community safety and town centres director with charity Encams, the former Keep Britain Tidy. He too stressed the government’s cleaner-greener-safer agenda.

“The best way to put it, it’s pointless having a town centre or any area, retail or commercial, that’s clean, if it isn’t safe. And it’s pointless having one safe, if it isn’t clean.” And judging by the standing-room only attendance at the seminar, plenty of people at the event agreed. That is, litter, graffiti, fly-tipping and fly-posting and deliberate damage put people off. Private companies are turning to Encams, Richard Barron went on, to help their clean and green credentials, under corporate social responsibility. And what he termed ‘local environment quality’ issues are not going to go away, he added. <br><br>Are fast food restaurants’ litter that attract rats, cigarette ends and used and discarded drug abusers’ needles a security, or even a business, issue? Richard Barron suggested that they were, if staff felt concerned about coming into work, or going home after dark. Encams has done advertising posters, including ones with sexual innuendo aimed at 18 to 24-year-olds, thought from market research to be the age group likely to drop litter on a night out. Encams surveyors by logging every cigarette butt and gum stain can let you look at a problem – for instance, if a place is off-puttingly dark, does that call for better lighting, or should trees be cut back to let more street lighting in? As for enforcement, under the Clean Neighbourhood Act 2005, councils can give out fixed penalty notices for littering or other ‘enviro-crimes’. Richard Barron hinted that some local authorities are not using these powers as much as they could, While the giving out of &#163;80 on the spot fines can be confrontational, another reason is whether it’s a vote-loser, by alienating people.

Among questions from the floor, Sally Humphreys, head of operations at the New West End Company, which provides security and other services for Oxford Street and surrounds, pointed to land owners. Richard Barron agreed private land owners are probably the biggest culprits, in dragging street standards down. While void properties were raised, Steve Wilson of Derbyshire Police did raise his county’s ‘big clean up’ whereby police and local authorities did just that.

Who was there? From retail, Tim Edwards of The John David Group (JD Sports); Bob Knight, head of loss prevention at Toys R Us; Terry Atkinson and John Scott of MetroCentre at Gateshead, featured last issue; and John Davenport of Arcadia Group. From contract guarding, David Stubbs, MD of Astute Security. Police came from as far afield as Kent and Northern Ireland. From crime partnerships, Trevor Pepper and George Want of CV One at Coventry, featured last issue; Paul Riordan, business crime reduction manager at Kingston upon Thames; Lester Silk, business crime co-ordinator, Mendip District Council; and Laura Crawshaw, Burton-on-Trent business crime co-ordinator. Winners of champagne in exhibitor PMR’s draw were Sally Humphreys, and Bob Lelliot, business crime manager in Chester.

BRC date

The British Retail Consortium annual loss prevention conference runs on October 21 in London.

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