A SOUTHAMPTON organisation is helping city centre shops fight back against the rising tide of crime

New figures revealed by The British Retail Consortium this week showed retail crime cost the industry £1.9bn a year – 20 per cent of its annual profits.

The cost of theft rose by almost a third (31%) to £700m, according to the organisation’s latest Retail Crime Survey.

The number of violent attacks against staff is also significant, with an average of 115 retail employees getting attacked every day.

GO! Southampton, the city’s BID (Business Improvement District) has employed a former police sergeant to work with businesses and the police to stop repeat offenders in their tracks.

Martin Conlan gathers evidence, liaises with the authorities and train businesses on how to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime.

Already he’s helped to secure four prison sentences and three restraining orders against some of the city centre’s most persistent criminals.

Martin, who spent 30 years in the police force, said: “People can mistakenly think that retail crime is victimless but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

"Quite often security staff and shop workers are subjected to assault and this can be a terrifying ordeal. Consumers also pay the price, having to shell out more for products as a result of retailers losing money on lost stock. For small businesses the loss of stock can be crippling and in the worst situations they can be forced out of business as a result.”

He meets face-to-face with businesses to hear about the issues that are affecting them and helps them by gathering intelligence and building up a file of evidence to pass on to police.

It means he can piece together information from different crimes and identify patterns – effectively getting a bird’s eye view of crime in the city centre.

Chief Executive of the BID Giles Semper said: “As the results of the British Retail Consortium’s latest survey show, crime can have a huge impact on businesses. We’re pleased to be taking real action in Southampton with the introduction of Martin to our team. We now have a much better idea of the prolific offenders in the BID area, which helps the police to resolve the issues.”

Martin also sees prevention as an important part of his role.

He will soon start working with BID levy payers to educate them on steps they can take to reduce their chances of being a victim of crime. This might include tips such as having clearer window space, positioning CCTV cameras correctly and guidance on how to spot tell-tale signs of a shoplifter.

Southampton District Chief Inspector Phil Lamb said: “We work with Martin to identify the city’s most prolific and persistent offenders and gather the best evidence to enable us to actively deal with criminality.

“Martin is very knowledgeable around the issues local businesses face and also what is required for us to be able to prosecute offenders. This link into the community really supports our work to keep Southampton safer.”

The crime reduction work is the latest initiative rolled out by GO! Southampton to help businesses in the city centre.

GO! Southampton is the Business Improvement District (BID) for the city. Funded and led by local business, it exists to implement improvements to the city centre including street cleaning teams, funding the city rangers and organising and promoting events to attract visitors.

It is funded by 650 levy payers in the district, which stretches from Bedford Place in the north down to the waterfront, Commercial Road in the west to Solent University in the east.