Belfast Telegraph

City adopts offender image project

Photographs of the most prolific shoplifters in Belfast are to be circulated to retailers in a bid to combat a crime that costs businesses millions of pounds each year.

The 30 offenders whose images will be distributed to business owners are believed to be responsible for 80% of city centre theft, according to Belfast City Centre Management, the organisation behind the initiative.

They all have multiple convictions and have been identified by police analysts as major culprits.

Belfast City Centre Management has worked in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to come up with the Hot Alert Retail Offender image project.

The 30 photos will be circulated to almost 70 traders who participate in the Department of Justice-funded Retail Crimewatch initiative.

Billy McGivern, the chairman of Belfast City Centre Management, said: "The scheme is a targeted approach by PSNI Neighbourhood Policing Unit, working in partnership with Retail Crimewatch.

"Belfast City Centre Management has distributed these images to 68 members of the Retail Crimewatch in the city centre. All the retailers have welcomed this innovative move.

"It works so easily. When a retailer sees one of these offenders, they report the offender to (PSNI's) Musgrave CCTV room who will contact the city centre policing team.

"A police officer from this team will then take appropriate action which may include, provided sufficient grounds exist, stop and search for offences such as: going equipped to steal; possession of stolen property; possession of drugs and related offences.

"We are confident that this fast response will deter potential offenders from visiting Belfast city centre with the intent to commit crime. This is another part of our efforts to make Belfast the safest shopping destination in Northern Ireland."

Inspector Robert Murdie, from the PSNI's city centre policing team, said: "There are several types of shoplifter operating in our towns and cities: opportunistic thieves, not readily distinguishable from ordinary customers, who steal items for personal use; more determined thieves, usually operating alone, who steal small quantities of goods to sell, often to support drug habits; and groups of organised thieves who steal large quantities of merchandise for resale.

"The Hot Alert system, which is part of the Belfast Retail Crimewatch partnership and applies to members of this partnership, seeks to target police, retailers and security staff to collectively focus on the last two groups of thieves. These groups constitute those who cause greatest harm to the retailers in Belfast.

"This scheme is further complemented by the Shop Safe initiative which uses the city centre policing team to deliver specialised training to retail staff aimed at promoting awareness of latest crime trends and developing greater links with the policing team."

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