Over 2,300 known shoplifters have been banned from entering stores in Belfast in the last four years, it was revealed yesterday.
A retail crime initiative in the city has led to a massive 50% reduction in stock loss among the 300 participating shops and outlets, with civil exclusion orders being placed on 2,331 offenders since 2004.
The scheme allows business owners to share data on criminals who have targeted their premises and issue blanket bans for all stores that have signed up.
The information is also passed to the National Business Information System (NBIS) to enable retailers from across the UK to identify repeat offenders.
Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins hailed the scheme’s success as he launched a similar project in Londonderry.
“Retail crime does not just affect businesses and threaten the livelihood of honest traders, it is a real drain on our economy," he said.
The Retail Crimewatch scheme involves co-operation between police, shop and business owners, local councillors and trade representatives.
The Government now plans to set up the initiative across all police districts in Northern Ireland at a cost of £170,000 over the next three years.
“The success so far of the Retail Crimewatch scheme is encouraging,” the minister told the audience at the launch in the Millennium Forum in Londonderry.
“In Belfast it has led to a 50% reduction in stock loss across the 300 participating retailers.
“I am confident that the development of a similar scheme here in Foyle and the eventual roll-out across all policing districts in Northern Ireland will realise similar reductions in retail crime, helping to detect, frustrate and prevent this type of illegal activity," Mr Goggins added.