A NEW detect and prevent initiative has seen shoplifting offences fall in the Bradford district.
A proactive approach to guide people, who thieve to feed addictions, into help – allied to a tough crackdown on persistent offenders – has seen crimes in the city centre going down.
Inspector Andy Gallant, in charge of policing in central Bradford, said four days of action, in partnership with retailers, had resulted in only one offence of shoplifting.
And in four weeks running up to Christmas there had been a small decrease of three shoplifting crimes, 72 to 69, from the previous year, with total city centre crime decreasing from 277 to 238.
Insp Gallant said the most prolific 12 shoplifters around the city centre had been arrested and would be locked up over Christmas.
But he emphasised that increased work was going on to address the issues, such as drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness, which led to shoplifting.
Insp Gallant explained: “The thrust of what we are doing is to prevent offences taking place by dealing with offenders before they commit the crime, and signposting them to the appropriate organisations to help them with their dependencies.
“We want to stop people coming into stores with the purpose of committing offences by linking in with support agencies to look at housing benefits, accommodation and drugs treatment and see if we can take away the cause of their offending behaviour.”
Police are working closely with the Reach Out Project, and one of the ideas was to send support workers in purple hoodies on to the streets to approach would-be offenders and try to help them.
“We looked a bit more inviting in the colourful hoodies. It was a case of handing out an olive branch and saying we are not just about enforcement. We want to stop begging and clear up the streets.”
Insp Gallant said two particular individuals, who had been regular city centre offenders, had accepted help.
He added: “They are likely to become our champions. They have stopped offending, are getting the benefits they are entitled to, have been given a place to stay and have even become churchgoers.”
Steve Longbottom, of City Centre Beat, said: “If we can divert these people by signposting them to the appropriate agency and so break the cycle of offending, we wholeheartedly support that. If these hard core offenders are diverted from offending, however it is done, that has to be good.”