Facewatch to attend CTN World 2011
The new, online way to report and deter shop crime is launched at CTN World 2011, 20th-21st November, Stand 131, at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Facewatch, the online crime reporting system, will be launched to convenience and newsagent store owners at the show. The online product was piloted in London this year with great success, and has the full acceptance of the Metropolitan Police. Facewatch provides CCTV evidence and witness statements directly to the local police, empowering business owners to report crime, and deter and ultimately catch more petty criminals, a scourge on the convenience sector.
Low-level crime such as shoplifting, bag theft, and pick-pocketing, continues to be a very significant problem, and could be seen as the thin end of the crime wedge. This low-level criminal activity affects businesses’ profitability, personal safety and is a huge drain on police time; and we all ultimately pay the price through the increased costs of goods and taxes.
Businesses continue to invest heavily in CCTV, security guards and other measures to combat the problem, but it took a wine bar owner in central London to realise that if business owners could help the police to speed up the reporting of such crime and provide the relevant CCTV information directly over the web, this would not just help the police but also provide immediate comfort to the victims and, of course, ensure the conviction of more criminals.
In November 2010, Simon Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Wine Bar, launched the new online system named Facewatch, with the support of the Victoria Business Improvement District.
The pilot scheme started with 31 sites including bars, restaurants and retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Prêt a Manger, Starbucks, and the Victoria Coach Station. Since launching the system, Facewatch has recorded a string of successes. In one case, a customer’s bag was stolen but the incident was caught on CCTV, clips of footage were immediately shared with police, and images circulated amongst local businesses. Approximately 24 hours later the criminal had been apprehended and charged. He is currently in prison serving an 8 month sentence. In the pilot areas, a ten-fold improvement in the ratio of solved to unsolved crimes, and a similar level in time-saving for businesses and police, have been achieved.
What has been noticeable is the impact of removing a prolific offender from an area – either through an early arrest or through the deterrent effect of a premises being protected by using Facewatch. In some premises, incidents have dropped by over 80 per cent in a very short period of time.
Following the success of the pilot, Facewatch is now being used in over 100 premises around London and further areas will be piloted in Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Bristol, Merseyside and across the whole of the UK.
Police and politicians are very supportive of Facewatch because it streamlines the process for tackling low level crime, so helping the police get results and importantly saving money.
In September, James Brokenshire, Minister for Crime and Security, received a demonstration of the technology at Vision Express on Victoria Street, prior to speaking at the UK roll-out of Facewatch in Cardinal Place, Victoria.
The development of Facewatch comes at an important time as businesses wrestle to improve their bottom line and as crime prevention becomes the focus of greater attention, especially following the riots in August. The British Retail Consortium’s Annual Retail Crime Review reported that the total cost of retail crime was £1.1bn in 2009/10 and the figure is likely to have grown this year. Loss prevention or tackling shrinkage can have a massive impact on a company’s bottom line. For example, if a retailer was to budget for £100,000 of shrinkage per store and had a chain of 100 stores, then a modest 10 per cent reduction in this figure adds £1m to the bottom line, or the equivalent of a new store being opened. Indeed shrinkage has become such a widespread issue that Mike Weatherley MP has recently set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Retail and Business Crime.
The August riots in London and major cities around the country highlighted a need for a greater deterrent to prevent criminals from entering shops and committing theft. Facewatch achieves this by dramatically increasing the chances that a criminal will be caught. By only providing short clips of CCTV to the police, Facewatch is also able to significantly reduce the hours of CCTV which Police officers must view and since the evidential package is instantly available, time is not wasted by sending officers to visit the premises. Facewatch enables police to work more closely within the business community and to demonstrate greater success in solving crimes.
Having seen Facewatch, Mark Field MP commented, ‘I was especially impressed by the convenience and simplicity of the Facewatch technology and its clear emphasis on responsibility by the retailer to help keep criminals at bay’.
Tackling low level crime is important not only because every incident can be a personal catastrophe but similar to not fixing broken windows, it sends a message to criminals that crime is not acceptable and so preventing more serious offences. By reducing the time it takes to bring criminals to justice, empowering communities by creating a more effective partnership with police and providing victims with immediate support, we believe Facewatch will help the UK get a grip on this serious issue.
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Stuart Greenfield – PR Consultant
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Jo Wilding – PR Administrator
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