5-Minute Feature: How Cheltenham shops tackle thieves
As prolific shoplifter Natasha Benson starts a year-long jail sentence for stealing hundreds of pounds worth of goods, we look at how stores protect themselves from thieves.
ANYONE who has ever worked in a shop will know that staff have two main jobs – to help customers find and buy the goods they want, and to stop others from taking stock without paying.
Last week, Natasha Benson was jailed for stealing £232 worth of cosmetics from Boots while on a suspended prison sentence for previous thefts.
The 33-year-old, of Scholars Court in Alstone, Cheltenham, had her one-year jail sentence activated after CCTV from the Tewkesbury store caught the theft, before she was approached by a security guard.
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CCTV and security guards are two of the key weapons shops have to stop thieves, but staff play just as important a part, as Owen Acland, the manager of Cheltenham's Beechwood Shopping Centre, explained.
"There are a number of things shops can do but the number one thing is vigilance," he said.
"Shoplifters don't want to be seen, so staff need to be aware of what people are doing in the shops; are they behaving strangely?
"People need to know the layout of their shop, and make sure they know if there are any vulnerable areas or blank spots for CCTV, where people can hide things or try and take security tags off.
"Shoplifters don't want it to be difficult, so you have to make it difficult for them."
Security tags are another tactic to stop thieves. They are attached to stock and activate alarms as they pass by a sensor at the door.
Mr Acland added: "Some shops do more. High end jewellers, for example, put their stock behind glass cabinets or even don't let you just walk into the shop – they have someone on the door to let you in."
He said one of his roles as manager of the shopping centre is to advise shopkeepers on security measures.
"We're here to make sure our customers and tenants are safe and secure.
"We can also offer advice as to a shop's layout, whether they've got areas where customers can't be seen, corners or places hidden by high rails for example.
"And it's worth looking at a shoplifter's motivation. A lot of items are stolen to be sold on. So are sellable items in a place where they can be slipped into a bag?"
Another way shops protect themselves and their staff is by joining the Daysafe scheme.
It is part of the Cheltenham Safe group, with its Nightsafe scheme aimed to reduce crime in the night-time economy.
Self-funded, the scheme allows shops to pool intelligence on shoplifters and also those who harass their staff or behave badly in a store.
People who have been found to have stolen from shops or attempted thefts a number of times can be excluded by a banning order from all member stores for a given period.
Lists of people excluded, and lists of those recently found to have been stealing, are circulated to the Daysafe member stores.