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Shoplifters faces exposed on new app for shop owners and police

An app designed to help put a stop to shop thefts is being used by police and traders alike in Ollerton.

Neighbourhood policing officers have been out in the town visiting stores to get them to sign up to a new platform that aims to zero-in on thieves plaguing the high street.

An image gallery of shoplifters known to the police and a chat feed where businesses can log live updates of an ongoing theft are some of the functions of the Ollerton Shopwatch service.

Having access to this information will allow businesses to communicate with the police and each other and help put a face to a name of a suspect when it’s reported, so that officers can take action.

Following a recent rise in reports of shoplifting in the Ollerton area, a decision was made to make Ollerton Shopwatch free for local shops to access via the Schemelink app, thanks to funding provided by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

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A similar scheme has been in place in Newark town centre since the start of the year and has helped make a real difference to tackling shoplifting there, with the Ollerton neighbourhood policing team hoping these results can be replicated.

PC Dawn Adams said: “We have seen a rise in reports of shop thefts in Ollerton and we know that people are fed up of it, so that’s why it’s so important we do something about it.

“Most of these thefts are carried out by the same people, who are often known both to us and to those working in the shops, although they might not know their names, which obviously makes it harder for us to then link them to an offence.

“If they see someone enter the store and think, I recognise that face, they can then log on to the app in seconds, see if their picture is on the image gallery and put a face to a name, which can really help us and means we’re much more likely to be able to take action and put them before the courts.

“Having the chat feed for shops to add information on is brilliant too because in Ollerton, if someone gets turned away from one shop, they’ll just go to the next one along, so staff being active on the app and communicating with each other can really help stop these offenders.

“When we went around the shops to promote this and to get businesses to sign up, every shop we went to told us they were really pleased it was coming in, and it’s obviously fantastic that it’s free because of the council funding too. I think this will massively help.”

The Newark and Sherwood neighbourhood policing team have been using Schemelink in Newark town centre since the start of the year, with use of the app coinciding with a reduction in offending.

There has been a substantial increase in positive outcomes following reports of shoplifting in Newark, with arrests, convictions and other positive action being taken by police in 17% of reported shop thefts this year – compared to the national average of 5%.

PC Marcus Bloomfield has led on this good work in Newark and feels that the introduction of Schemelink, along with other community engagement work, has been a major reason behind the improvements.

He said: “We’ve been using it in Newark since the beginning of the year and, while uptake was slow at the start, we are getting more and more businesses signed up and we are seeing it work and seeing a rise in reporting as a result.

“If shops don’t report a shop theft, we won’t know about it, and if we don’t know about it, we won’t be able to stop it, and if we can’t stop it, it’ll continue and just get worse and worse. It’s important that we get more people to come forward and report offences.

“Shoplifting can really impact people’s livelihoods and can be really damaging to communities – especially to a small shop on the high street where someone stealing £100 worth of items can really be felt.

“In Newark, we’ve started to get more and more shops contacting us naming the offenders when they make their report because they’ve signed up to the app and so know their names.

“Getting that information really helps us, and then by working with the shops to access their CCTV or encouraging them to get better CCTV, we’re able to take action and the positive results continue to increase, which is great.

“In cases where CCTV is provided by shops, our conviction rate in Newark actually increases to 34%, so it goes to show that this definitely works.” 

Councillor Paul Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and Community Relations at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “We have seen the benefits of setting up a Schemelink in Newark town centre and I’m pleased that this scheme is now being introduced to combat the issues of shoplifting and antisocial behaviour within Ollerton and the surrounding areas.

“We are working in partnership with the police to encourage local shops to sign up, which is free, and I hope this scheme not only creates better partnership working as we work to reduce and prevent this unacceptable behaviour, but also allows our local shop owners to feel supported and safer.”

Businesses can only be added to Ollerton Shopwatch by the neighbourhood policing team, with officers set to continue approaching shops in the coming weeks to get more to sign up.

While the team are users on the app and can access the messages on there, shop thefts should still be reported in the conventional manner by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.

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