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By Ian Dipple Friday 22 November 2013 Updated: 26/11 15:34
SHOPLIFTING and anti-social behaviour within the Kingfisher Shopping Centre has fallen since the introduction of body cameras for security guards.
Between January and September there was a 43 per cent drop in the number of anti-social behaviour offences compared with the same period last year and shoplifting has fallen by as much as 50 per cent between July and September compared to the previous 12 months.
The figures were revealed as police launched their annual Christmas crackdown on purse and bag thefts which the use of body cameras by security staff will form part of.
High visibility patrols by police and Police Community Support Officers will take place as part of Operation Topaz in a bid to raise awareness amongst shoppers and also target known offenders.
The operation runs until New Year's Eve and will also see free lanyards - a cord worn around part of the body - issued to those thought to be vulnerable and available from the Kingfisher Shopping Centre's information desk which people can attach to their purse or handbags.
Previous campaigns have been held over the last five years in a response to a traditional rise in such offences at this time of year and resulted in a drop in the number of purse and bag thefts.
PC Richard Field said while the number of purse thefts were relatively low nationally there was a rise at Christmas when crowded stores offered thieves more opportunities to strike. He added thefts usually happened when victims were distracted, brushed against or bumped into. Offenders may also engage victims in conversation or stand particularly close to them.
"We are aware of a small minority of offenders who target the town centre to commit offences and the clear message is that they will be targeted. Our operation is designed to make the environment as uncomfortable as possible for them," he said.
"Victims are often vulnerable people, such as the elderly and disabled, and hotspots in the past have included chain stores in the Kingfisher Centre and charity shops on Church Green.
"We will be raising awareness of this and telling people about the simple, commonsense precautions they can take to protect their cash, such as keeping bags zipped up and their bags within sight at all times."
Advice to shoppers includes keeping purses out of sight in an inside coat pocket, keeping handbags fastened or zipped at all times and not leaving purses or bags unattended on a trolley, pushchair or wheelchair. People should also avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Craig Nicholls, Kingfisher centre security manager, said: "Together with the police we are working hard to provide a safe place for people to carry out their shopping and the emphasis has been on preventative rather than reactive measures in order to achieve that."
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