A roundtable event has taken place in Northampton today (November 17) to discuss the ongoing issue of retail crime and violence and abuse against shop staff.

The roundtable was organised by Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, and Cllr David Smith, Portfolio holder for Community Safety, Engagement and Regulatory Services at West Northamptonshire Council, to give retailers the opportunity to share their experiences of retail crime in Northamptonshire.

The meeting, held at West Northamptonshire Council’s Angel Square building, involved representatives of major retail chains, shopping centres and independent stores, with, Alison Farr from the Northamptonshire Business Crime Partnership, and officers from Northamptonshire Police.

The roundtable members heard about the challenges, and exchanged ideas to work towards solutions.

Chief Inspector Carl Wilson of the Crime Management and Investigation Unit told the meeting about Op Elegance, a countywide policing operation that is targeting prolific and violent retail crime offenders.

16 people sat around a round table in a meeting room

Op Elegance sees police working alongside the Northamptonshire Business Crime Partnership’s two specialist civilian investigators – roles funded by Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold.

The BCP investigators work to support retailers and gather the best possible evidence to help police in the Retail Crime Team follow up on incidents.

The roundtable event ended with a commitment from everyone that they would continue to talk together and ensure that the views of businesses and partners are fed into the work to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. They agreed to meet again within the next six months.

Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said:  “This was a very constructive meeting and we have agreed that we need closer collaboration and stronger dialogue to make an impact.

“The voice of the businesses matters if we are going to be able to improve how we work, and I am sure that we have all benefited from hearing some new ideas today.”

Julie Tekkman of Vintage Guru

Business owner Julie Tekman, (pictured above) of Vintage Guru in Northampton, said: “This was a very useful bringing together of the Commissioner, the Council and the Police with small and large retailers, which enabled us to discuss and look at the issues that we are all facing.

“This has helped us all to understand what is going on behind the scenes to improve the problems we face and I am very optimistic and positive that people are listening to us.”

PFCC Stephen Mold and Cllr David Smith

Cllr David Smith, Cabinet Member for Communities, Engagement and Regulatory Services at West Northamptonshire Council (pictured above with PFCC Stephen Mold) said his extensive professional experience in loss prevention gave him a deeper understanding of the challenges facing retailers.

He said: “Retail crime, in its various different guises, is never victimless, there is always someone who has to cope with the experience after the event. Thanks to this partnership approach, that in my Cabinet Role I have forged with the Police, fire and Crime Commissioner, Stephen Mold, we have been able to get ahead of the curve with respect to understanding the constantly changing unique needs of the retail sector.

“There is a lot of skill and understanding, within the partnership, of the technology needed to protect these retail outlets and that is why we are keen to connect with each other.”

Chief Inspector Carl Wilson speaking at the meeting

Chief Inspector Carl Wilson (pictured above) leads on the work to tackle retail crime. He said that the partnership approach to tackling retail crime had already resulted in improvements to the number of offenders who have been charged or dealt with, and added that the events like the roundtable are key to supporting community safety.

Chief Inspector Wilson said: “Op Elegance has already significantly improved our approach to tackling retail crime, we have recently seen more offenders brought to justice and a better coordinated approach to targeting those causing the most harm. Working together with key partners and local retailers better equips us all in making Northamptonshire a hostile place for retail crime offenders.”