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Northampton Retail Birthday

by msecadm4921

The Northampton Retail Crime Initiative (NRCI) was created in July 2001 to tackle the problems of retail crime in Northampton town centre. How has it evolved? to reduce shop theft, fraud and anti-social behaviour affecting businesses, shoppers, visitors and retail staff alike.

Next month the NRCI celebrates its sixth year. Northampton is fast growing and is the largest town in the UK. It is a centre of the UK’s distribution network. Due to its central location Northampton can be easily reached from all areas of the country. In 2002 it was the first initiative in the UK to be presented with the British Retail Consortium Safer Shopping Award. In 2005 it was one of the first schemes to be awarded the Action Against Business Crime Safer Business Award.

In 2006 the SafeCity Initiative in Minneapolis was officially launched. PC Paul Valentine, the then police liaison officer, travelled to the USA to advise the police, city officials and retailers on how to set up this initiative, which was based on the Northampton model. The SafeCity Initiative covers the Mall of America in Minneapolis which is the largest shopping mall in the USA, with over 500 shops, 14 cinemas, 50 restaurants and 14,000 employees. Although much larger than Northampton the SafeCity Initiative works in the same way and has the same aims and objectives.

PC Nick Stephens is the current Police liaison officer attached to the NRCI. Before joining Northamptonshire police in 1990 PC Stephens served with the Royal Hong Kong Police. He also has experience of security work in the hotel, shopping centre and leisure industries.

He says: "I believe that it is essential that Crime Initiatives have strong links with the police. I am very lucky in that I am a full-time dedicated police liaison officer to the NRCI so can fully concentrate on problems affecting the retail trade within Northampton. It is important that we listen to retailers and one of the first initiatives we set up was a poster campaign in response to member concerns about police issuing penalty notices for shop theft. We designed a poster outlining the guidelines which have been agreed nationally with the retailers for the issuing of penalty notices. These posters were then placed in stores to reassure shop staff and also to serve as a useful reminder to attending police officers. This has led to improved communication and confidence between the NRCI, police and retailers. An important partner is the town’s CCTV control room. We are fortunate to have a team of dedicated and professional CCTV staff, who operate one of the largest CCTV systems within the country.”

Apart from the serving of exclusion orders against persistent offenders, obtaining anti-social behaviour orders and information sharing between members, the NRCI is also helping to deliver Project Griffin training. Northampton will be the first location in the East Midlands region to receive such training. Griffin is a nationwide scheme to improve security and retail staff awareness regarding counter terrorism.

Joe Joyce, the Co-ordinator of the NRCI has been in post since March 2004. "The teamwork and professionalism that is evident within Northampton is outstanding and we at the NRCI are proud to be part of this. Working together with our partners and members as a team has enabled us to have many successes in the fight against retail crime. I am also pleased to announce that the NRCI has expanded greatly since its inception and now covers all areas of Northampton, not just the town centre. In fact we now operate anywhere within the Borough of Northampton, covering shopping centres, retail parks, small corner shops and the major high street retailers. We also have on board the Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust and hope to soon sign up the market traders (Northampton has the largest outdoor market square in the country)."

"The NRCI is the biggest retail crime initiative in the county, with over 140 members. There are 15 Safer Community Teams (neighbourhood policing teams) working in the area we cover. We currently have 50+ excluded offenders which is a manageable number for the scheme. The NRCI was recently instrumental in assisting the Anti Social Behaviour Unit (ASBU) in obtaining an Anti Social Behaviour Order on a well known and prolific retail offender. Through our network of contacts information on crime other than shop theft has been passed to us and in one instance member’s information led to the disruption and closure of a cannabis factory where over 500 plants along with drug making equipment was seized."

Like all not for profit initiatives, the NRCI is constantly exploring avenues of funding. Although the Northamptonshire police have been very supportive, sponsorship from local businesses has ensured that the NRCI has remained.

Joe Joyce adds: "One of the reasons for the success of the NRCI is the fact that we are constantly developing new ideas, but never losing sight of that fact that we rely on our members for support and information. An important part of what we do is to listen to them and act on their feedback. All members receive a personal visit at least once a month. Long may this continue! An exciting development is the recent partnership between Actuate Learning & Development Ltd, a nationally recognised training organisation and ourselves. This partnership has enabled members to receive training on a wide variety of subjects including conflict avoidance, personal safety, diversity and legal powers for retailers. This has proved to be beneficial not only in their work but in their personal lives as well. This training will continue and expand as members require it. Partnership working is the way to succeed and our motto.”

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