A digital radio network linking businesses across Flintshire to help them clamp down on shoplifting has been given a major boost – thanks to cash confiscated from crooks.
The pioneering scheme by the organisation Flintshire Against Business Crime has already achieved some impressive results since it went on air in Flint and Mold at the start of this year
It will now be extended to other major towns in the county after being awarded £2,500 from a special fund.
The money was jointly presented by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard.
The Your Community, Your Choice initiative – otherwise known as the Participatory Budgeting Scheme – is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Much of the money was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
It is one of 15 grants totalling over £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants and almost 10,000 votes cast.
This radio link project will impact squarely on crime and anti-social behaviour by enabling shops to talk directly to the council’s CCTV system and police.
Shops can also speak to each other about known offenders in the area, issuing alerts where necessary.
CCTV can be brought into action faster to record visual evidence and the police will be able to deter crime by early interventions.
Business crime support officer Charlie Warr, who works with Flintshire Against Business Crime, said: “The digital radio system has been operating with 40 sets in Flint and Mold since the start of this year and has already proved its worth.
“One retailer described it as `priceless’ and another tells us that it in its first few weeks the system was used to deter three known shoplifters.
“The £2,500 received from Your Community You Choice will give the scheme a massive help and allow us to have a further 60 or so radio sets in other towns across the county including Buckley, Holywell, Saltney, Queensferry and Connah’s Quay.
“The radio network works alongside an internet system which businesses can log onto to share information about crime and anti-social behaviour.”
The county’s other successful project was the Flintshire Online Watch Link (OWL) Association which helps communities combat crime and anti-social behaviour.
It was awarded £2,500 to deliver a package of neighbourhood crime prevention pop-up events, more CCTV equipment and further development of watch schemes.
Bill Brereton, a former Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales Police and now a director of OWL, said: “We have 69,000 members in the counties of Flintshire and Wrexham and run schemes including School Watch, Business Watch, Park Watch and Dog Watch.
“The information we gather is passed onto the police or the fire service so that members can be alerted against crime and anti-social behaviour. It’s all about pro-active crime prevention and reduction.
“The money we’ve received from Your Community Your Choice will be a huge boost for us and will allow us to further promote increased security in the home, safety in public places and build effective partnerships between residents and agencies.
“The funding will enable us to provide a CCTV ‘loan’ service and a ‘watch’ scheme with resources such as street signage.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, said: “I was delighted when I took office this year that I was able to continue the good work of the Your Community, Your Choice fund and support community projects across North Wales.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support, and I would like to thank all of this year applicants who submitted innovative and interesting projects, and for the public for taking part in the decision-making through our on-line voting system.
“This year 29 projects went forward to the public vote and almost 10,000 votes were cast and that response demonstrated to me that communities can work together to make our public places safer.
“Community groups such as yours are vital to the citizens of north Wales and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Operation Scorpion aims to target all types of serious crime and to date it has recovered £1.3m worth of cash and assets and almost £300,000 worth of illegal drugs and ensured that 87 criminals are spending over 350 years behind bars.
“Money confiscated from these criminals is now helping to support communities such as yours.
“Every day our work involves working closely with communities and organisations across the whole of North Wales, and it is vital that these strong ties and links continue so that we can continue to make North Wales a safer place.”
PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.
“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.
“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”