Birmingham Retail Crime Operation (RCO) has become the first scheme in the UK to go on line with what will eventually be a national database linking city centre crime reduction partnerships across the UK.
More than 250 town or shopping centres have established retail crime reduction partnerships or schemes as part of their local community safety strategy. Databases are used to identify and target persistent offenders, hold details of sightings and incidents and complement existing police intelligent systems, which tend to focus on arrests and convictions. The objective: target the most serious, prolific criminals by making information available to the local partnership to reduce the opportunity for these offenders to commit crimes in the first place. Chris James who manages the Birmingham RCO points out that all the schemes, however, have been developed in isolation.
He says: ?With the introduction of a secure link to a central database, this will now dramatically improve the way we share information. The aims are to: provide a secure means of data transfer between sites; provide an operationally effective method of data management; develop the software application to make the best use of the data and intelligence available; investigate and develop good practice and accreditation for data use at sites; develop the best web technology for this application and to integrate with other applications where necessary; develop a secure and accurate data standard for transmission of individuals’ records; integrate emerging image processing and facial recognition software into the application; investigate the impact on crime and the fear of crime; investigate the organisational structure and behaviour, specifically its impact on town schemes, individual members, residents, customers who visit, staff who work in the retail centres, other key agencies such as police and local authority, and the criminals; and establish accepted and agreed national codes of practice and protocols to help statutory and non-statutory organisations to be more effective within their own organisations and between each other.?
The Department of Trade and Industry under its Management of Information Programme is part-funding the programme. The academic partner (The Scarman Centre at Leicester University) will be fully funded by the DTI through the Economic and Social Research Council. Project partners are: Retail Decisions, supplier of retail crime databases; the Scarman Centre; the Midlands Regional Crime Initiative (MRCI), a recently established consortium of retail centres in the West Midlands and Warwickshire set up as a regional crime reduction partnership and chaired by former West Midlands Chief Cosntable Sir Geoffrey Dear; and the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Project supporters include: West Midlands, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Northumbria, West Mercia Police, Northampton, and Kent Police; and the Home Office Retail Crime Reduction Action Team. For more information, ring 0121 236 7652.