PCC Mark Shelford recently hosted a Business Crime Forum to discuss policing issues affecting businesses.
The event brought together members of the business community and partner organisations including council representatives, Avon and Somerset Police, Business Improvement District (BID) teams and Business Crime Reduction Partnerships (BCRPs)
The purpose of the collaborative session was to foster discussion and provide a space for business owners and managers to offer first-hand experiences of running businesses in our communities and highlight the impact of crime.
Feedback on issues
Prior to the day, a survey was completed by almost 150 local business owners from all over Avon and Somerset asking for their feedback.
The top three issues identified were anti-social behaviour (ASB) reported by 77% of those who took part in the survey; shoplifting (57%); and violent crime/public disorder (35%).
PCC Mark Shelford said:
“Preventing crime like shoplifting and supporting our business community is absolutely a priority for me under priority 1 of my Police and Crime Plan.
“This business crime forum coordinated by my office means we can work together to discuss issues such as shoplifting, and other crime concerns of business leaders such as assaults against their staff, anti-social behaviour and even cyber-crime resilience and find ways to work better together to tackle them.
“It was great to bring everyone together at the session. Although it was disappointing to see that regional managers from some of the big stores in our area were not able to attend.
“There was lots of valuable feedback and insights from the business community. One thing I am keen to do is seek assurances from the Chief Constable that the system of reporting these offences is being improved to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
“That way, the police can focus their resources and energy on investigating, arresting and charging these prolific offenders.”
Drug use was highlighted as another issue of concern cited by almost a third of people (32%). Discussions on the day considered how drug and addiction often go hand in hand with these crimes against business – specifically in relation to anti-social behaviour and theft/shop lifting – issues which are not specific to the region but UK-wide.
It was evident from attendees, many of whom represent small, sometimes family-run businesses where they both live and work, that not all crimes are reported making the impact much greater. Over half of those who responded to the survey run retail/shop businesses (55%).
Reporting was highlighted as vital to enable the Police to have a true picture of where crime is taking place and so that repeat perpetrators can be identified.
Discussions also included the need for more detail on crime to be able to identify root causes. For example, understanding whether shoplifting is for food for personal consumption or to fund an addiction or theft of high value goods which might then be sold on by organised crime gangs.
Outcomes and next steps
The focus of the day was to generate solutions and identify practical steps to help address the problems faced. Proposals put forward included the creation of a location-based toolbox which could address specific needs for different areas for example in rural areas, cities and towns.
The need for consistent reporting was emphasised and an idea to create an easy reporting system such as a mobile app was tabled.
It was agreed that engagement with partners who were unable to attend the forum was important and to include health, education, and voluntary sector representatives to encourage a joined-up approach.
Finally, addressing solutions to overcome specific issues and target the right profile of people was seen as important. For example, if ASB is an issue in one area identifying the people involved such as street drinkers, young people or night-time economy can help manage it.
The PCC will now write to all Local Authorities and other partners to request their support and to put in place practical and tangible actions designed to support business owners and reduce the criminality they face.