Paul Franks sitting at a desk in an office .Wearing casual clothes and a lanyard.

A pilot scheme to support businesses in North Northamptonshire with better investigation of shoplifting and other retail crime will now become business as usual – thanks to impressive results in the first year and continued funding from Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold.

The scheme is a partnership between the Northamptonshire Business Crime Partnership and the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner that aimed to improve the response to retail crime.

Under the 12-month pilot scheme, the Commissioner funded a specialist retail crime investigator to collaborate closely with retailers in the towns and villages in the north of the county. The investigator – retired Northamptonshire Police detective Paul Franks –  helped businesses to gather improved evidence, such as statements and CCTV footage, that was sent onto Northamptonshire Police to investigate.

The aim of the scheme was to focus on prolific and violent retail crime offenders and to work closely with the Northamptonshire Police Initial Investigation Team to increase the number of crimes that are resolved.

As a result, the scheme has significantly boosted the number of retail crimes that are detected and at the end of the 12-month trial, the number of positive outcomes for shoplifting in the north of the county had risen from 47 to 174.

In addition, the number of shoplifters charged with criminal offences in the north of the county had increased by 10 per cent.

Comparing North with West Northamptonshire, the positive outcomes for shoplifting offences in the same period increased, but by a much smaller number – from 54 in 2020/21 to 69 in 2021/22.

As a result of these improvements, the role has now become permanent and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold and Ali Farr, Crime Manger of the Northamptonshire Business Crime Partnership, are working on plans to roll out a similar scheme in Northampton, Daventry and the West of the county.

Ali Farr said:  “The feedback we have received from retailers is fantastic and that has been backed up by solid results. Retailers have told us that they value the support, knowledge, and professionalism that Paul Franks has provided, and that it has helped to reduce their loss as a business. The evidence is that more retailers in the north of the county are reporting crimes because they are now more confident in the police response  – that’s certainly what I am hearing, and I am pleased that this scheme has been such a success.”

Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “This specialist role is a valuable link between police investigation teams and retailers, and I am pleased that we have been able to increase the confidence of businesses and their staff and have supported the police to resolve these crimes by helping to gather the best evidence. That has helped prevent crime by closing the revolving door where offenders are arrested but are released to continue offending because of lack of evidence.

“The project has brought clear benefits and been very well received in the north of the county, and I am now looking to see if can be extended right across Northamptonshire.”

Chief Inspector Response and Local Policing (North) Scott Little said: “People often perceive shoplifting to be a victimless crime however those who own or work in retail outlets deserve to be able to come to work without fear.

“It’s great to see this role made permanent as it has significantly increased the confidence of shop workers in not only feeling safer but also in reporting incidents to us.”