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Wiltshire Police defends shoplifter CCTV evidence changes

Published 24/10/2015

Wiltshire Police is to ask stores in Swindon to send footage of offenders to them - rather than have an officer collect it
Wiltshire Police is to ask stores in Swindon to send footage of offenders to them - rather than have an officer collect it

A police force insists controversial changes to the way CCTV evidence of shoplifters is collected will speed up investigations.

Wiltshire Police is to ask stores in Swindon to send footage of offenders to them - rather than have an officer collect it.

Affected shops will also no longer get advice from police face-to-face but over the phone instead.

The move has been criticised by traders, who fear the money-saving scheme could increase town-centre crime.

However, senior officers argue the new system will see quicker turnaround times and more suspects arrested.

Superintendent Charlie Armstrong said: "The Home Secretary has rightly observed there is still wasteful spending in policing, so Wiltshire Police are working hard to reduce the bureaucracy facing our frontline officers and staff.

"One way in which we can do this is to remove the need for our employees to attend in person to collect CCTV footage from different premises when there is no offender on the scene and the crime or incident is in the past.

"I think the public would expect us to use new technology to support the work that we do and this trial means that important digital data can be streamed directly to us without relying on a personal collection service."

Wiltshire Police said the pilot scheme would begin on November 1.

A spokesman said following a shoplifting incident, advice would continue to be given to stores by a trained investigator.

He added: "This will now take place over the phone rather than an officer attending. A statement and relevant section of CCTV footage will then be produced and forwarded to our crime management unit in Devizes.

"This new system will ensure CCTV evidence is processed quicker and by investigators who are familiar with the main offenders in the area.

"An increase in turnaround times, the apprehension of a greater number of suspects and a reduction of crime are also anticipated as a direct result of these changes."

The scheme has received criticism from local traders, who have questioned the decision not to send an officer to store following a theft.

Ginette Gower, of Swindon Chamber of Commerce, said: "This could encourage crime to increase and may affect insurance and income."

Mr Armstrong said the scheme's effectiveness would be kept under review.

He said: "If the public and the business community think this is the wrong thing to do, then of course I would review the new service.

"I would want to reassure everyone that if an offender is apprehended or detained then we will attend as we always have done.

"Likewise, if the footage relates to a crime involving harm to someone, a continuing risk or a threat which causes someone fear then, again, we will be there to support, help and investigate."

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