Welwyn Garden City shops join forces in fight against theft and antisocial behaviour

PUBLISHED: 15:34 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 07 September 2018

WGC Watch has been launched in Welwyn Garden City.  Picture: WGC Business Improvement District

WGC Watch has been launched in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: WGC Business Improvement District

Archant

Shoplifters beware, Welwyn Garden City retailers are using a new radio system to spread the word about you.

Welwyn Garden City Business Improvement District (BID) has launched WGC Watch in partnership with Shop Safe to provide instant communication between shops, centre management, CCTV control rooms and the police.

Retailers will be able to quickly share information about shoplifters or anyone causing antisocial behaviour.

More than 40 businesses signed up to WGC Watch at the launch event on Wednesday.

Staff from various businesses, including H&M and Holland and Barrett, headed down to the collection point outside the Howard Centre to collect their new radios and receive training on how to use them.

Isabel Hospice is among those using the new radio system and WGC shop manager Wendy Harper said: “It gives us an added feeling of security and also a great feeling of community camaraderie as we all look out for each other and can inform other shops about anyone suspected of stealing from us so they can be vigilant.”

There have been three known incidents of shoplifting at the Stonehills hospice shop so far this year.

The hospice’s retail director Paul Summerland added: “We are really pleased to be part of the scheme which gives our shop staff and volunteers immediate contact with other shops who may have experienced a theft and also a panic button direct to the police.”

BID manager Mariana Bitonte told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The businesses have showed great enthusiasm for the scheme and we are keen to roll this out to all businesses in the town centre, along with regular training to highlight the importance and benefits of this safety scheme.”

The new scheme replaces an older one which was set up about 15 years ago.

The previous scheme proved successful in its early years and had more than 40 active members using the radio system and sharing intelligence.

However, over the years the staff operating those radios have moved on and membership dropped.

Membership to the new scheme is free, although businesses are expected to pay to rent the radios.

The monthly rent for a basic radio is £35 for non-BID businesses and £17.50 for BID businesses, which works out at £210 a year.

Mariana added: “It was a great event to show the community that safety for both businesses and shoppers is always a priority.

“The Watch aims to help reduce business crime working in partnership with local retailers, businesses, the police and other organisations.”

WGC BID was set up in 2017 following a vote by town centre businesses.

Each business now pays a levy to fund BID activities to improve the town centre and boost footfall.

In total, £1.5m will be spent over the five years that BID will run for.

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