Bridging the gap between CCTV and police

A ground-breaking crime reporting website is targeting criminals at the £20 million Widnes Shopping Park in Cheshire. The retail park is using the digital crime-fighting initiative ‘Facewatch’ to crack down on at low-level crime such as shoplifting, bag and wallet thefts and to reassure shoppers.

May 26, 2011
By Paul Jacques
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lauren Poultney with Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest and OK9 Wellbeing dog Buddy with their Leadership award.

A ground-breaking crime reporting website is targeting criminals at the £20 million Widnes Shopping Park in Cheshire. The retail park is using the digital crime-fighting initiative ‘Facewatch’ to crack down on at low-level crime such as shoplifting, bag and wallet thefts and to reassure shoppers.

The internet-based system links bar, pub, shop and restaurant owners to the police and also allows them to share information in real-time. It also acts to deter potential criminals from entering Facewatch members’ premises.

Victims of crime can send a witness statement to police and receive a crime reference number without leaving the premises. Through the scheme’s partnership with Card Protection Plan (CPP), stolen credit cards can be cancelled instantly and replacements ordered immediately.

Facewatch is working in association with prominent high-street retailers, such as Marks and Spencer, New Look, Boots, River Island and Costa Coffee, as part of the scheme.

Working closely with the Safer Halton Partnership and Akita Security Services, Facewatch hopes to replicate the success it has already achieved in its London trial, in which it was able to significantly reduce crime levels while helping to catch a number of prolific thieves.

The Facewatch system creates a highly-effective partnership between retailers, the public and the police, and is the only online crime reporting system that is officially supported and accredited by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) as an official police security initiative.

Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard, Cheshire Constabulary, said: “Facewatch provides an effective means for local businesses to report crimes to the police and ensures that the best evidence is available to the investigating officer.

“Importantly, via an online solution, it allows the police to view the CCTV evidence at an early stage in the investigation, which is often a very difficult and time consuming aspect.

“Victims of crime will also benefit as they will be able to pass details of their crime to the police without having to wait for an officer to attend, yet can be safe in the knowledge that all the information has been relayed to the police securely and speedily, enabling them to quickly commence the investigation.”

Mr Gerrard added that if it’s successful in Cheshire, he can see more forces coming on board.

Mathew Beddow, the shopping centre manager, said: “The shopping park has worked very closely with the police since we opened last year and we believe Facewatch will strengthen this relationship.

“Widnes Shopping Park has 24-hour security with a 17 camera CCTV system covering all areas of the car park with the shops also having CCTV systems. Facewatch will allow us to report any incidents at Widnes Shopping Park to the police faster and in more detail than ever before.”

Facewatch is based on a network of businesses using a simple, online system to report incidents and share information and CCTV images between each other.

Operating closely with police forces, the scheme works by gathering and creating a database of new and known offenders so that data can be shared between businesses, reducing the opportunities for criminals to strike.

Following an incident, such as shoplifting or handbag theft, retailers simply use Facewatch’s unique screen capture software to record still and moving footage from their CCTV cameras and upload it to the Facewatch website.

This technology cuts the amount of time that it takes to report an incident and assembles the required evidence, making it easier and faster to process a conviction.

Facewatch was trialled for the first time last year in London’s Victoria Business Improvement District, allowing the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and British Transport Police to share the information that was made available to them by the new technology.

It was originated by Simon Gordon, who owns and runs Gordon’s wine bar, the o

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