SHOPS in Kirkcaldy’s Central Retail Park and the nearby Asda store are saving thousands of pounds by working together to reduce crime.
A retail watch scheme introduced at the end of March this year has cut crime by 46 per cent and has been so successful it’s now likely to be rolled out to other areas of Fife.
Community safety officer Mark Anderson and community officer Alan Paton were instrumental in setting up Kirkcaldy Retail Watch – the first of its kind in Fife – but stressed it’s not a police-led initiative.
Mark explained the idea for retail watch followed the annual festive campaign to crack down on shoplifting.
“We put extra resources into the High Street and in the retail park, and that police presence not only acted as a visual deterrent, but we were also there to catch and apprehend shoplifters,” he said.
“But that level of policing was unsustainable, so we had to come up with a way of preventing and deterring crime, and we thought we’ll get the shops to work together.
“I have to say all the shops have been very receptive and enthusiatic about what we have done. All the shops are on board with this.
“We got in touch with the radio company, and they offered a free trial for a month. We showed the shop staff how to use the radios, and they now contact each other and link in with security staff and the police.
“If someone sees something and they need help, they can get on the radio to each other.
“We’ve also had signs put up in the car park, stickers in shop windows and set up an email system where if we see a pattern of crime developing Alan can be in the office and alert all the stores to what’s happening.”
Alan added: “One of the best examples of the email system was when a travelling gang of criminals targeted B&Q and stole three showers, probably worth about £1000.
‘‘I sent out an email to every store giving details of the vehicle involved and Currys came back to say there had been a similar incident at their Dunfermline branch.
‘’Through that line of inquiry the B&Q theft was detected. It’s all about networking.”
Because of its location, the retail park can be a magnet for travelling criminals, who can target a shop and then be on their way out of Fife within minutes along the A92.
And they’re not just lifting the odd item and stuffing it up a jumper.
“You’ve got to think bigger than that,” said Mark. “People who come along in a van, it’s not just a jacket, it’s a whole rack of jackets, you’ll turn round and all of a sudden there’s a big hole where the garments used to be.
“It’s preventing thefts like this that have made the scheme such a success. Crimes have almost halved within six months. Not that it was a hotbed of crime in the first place, but the High Street was being run very successfully, crime was dropping there and creeping up here.
“Rather than letting it get out of hand, we decided to nip it in the bud.
‘‘It’s really a Kirkcaldy-wide approach.”
Mark said there had been some high profile captures in the last six months, and within a week of the scheme going live they managed to nab a prolific shoplifter.
“We couldn’t believe our luck. That capture was publicised in the Fife Free Press, so people could see immediately it was having results.
“It sent out a message to shoplifters, but it also sent out a message to shoppers that Kirkcaldy is a safe and secure place to go shopping.
“It’s all about working together to prevent crime. We don’t want the criminals coming to Kirkcaldy. We want the shoppers in Fife to come to Kirkcaldy, to the retail park and Asda, and shop in confidence, knowing it is a safe place.”
The link with Asda has also been important, explained Mark.
“It was crucial they were part of it, along with Sainsburys and all the other stores. We didn’t want to displace shoplifters from the retail park and then effectively send them along the road to Asda.
“Everything here in the retail park, Asda has got as well, and they’re all working together.”