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    Applications open for West of England grant scheme to fight shoplifting

    Mayor Dan Norris (R) spoke to Shafique Awan, owner of St Peter's Rise Convenience Store, whose shop has been impacted by shoplifting' on the first day of the Mayoral Combined Authority’s Safer Shops West grants becoming available. (Photo: West of England Combined Authority)

    Local independent retailers in West of England have been urged to apply for new cash to invest in much-needed security to help fight back against shoplifting.

    Created by the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, Safer Shops West allows local independent businesses to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 towards the costs of security measures such as CCTV, hand-held radios and body cams.

    The fund is now open at www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/safershopswest.

    West of England mayor Dan Norris introduced the scheme late last month after a 41 per cent increase in shoplifting was recorded in the region over the past year alone.

    Speaking at the launch at St Peter’s Rise Convenience Store in Headley Park – second in Bristol’s list of shoplifting ‘hotspots’ – Norris said: “The fightback starts now. It’s law-abiding citizens that suffer from the shoplifting epidemic. Shops put up prices to make up for the lost goods – making the cost-of-living crisis even worse. And hard-working shopkeepers like Shafique are in the firing line.”

    Speaking ahead of the launch, Shafique Awan, who owns St Peter’s Rise Convenience Store, said: “There have been times when someone stole tonnes of chocolate from the aisle filling a bag, twice. Once a person actually got into the storeroom and wiped out the cigarettes and tobacco. Abusive customers are also an issue.

    “We are glad to host the mayor and welcome Safer Shops West.”

    Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retail Association added: “We wholeheartedly support this initiative by the West of England mayor. The current level of retail crime is totally unacceptable, and the smaller retailer simply cannot afford extra security staff to help manage the problem. Having access to this kind of fund will help the smaller retailers to run their business better by protecting their people, their customers and their stock.

    “We also hope it will help the police to secure convictions against the regular perpetrators with better use of data and images. We will be encouraging all our members to apply for a grant and hopefully this scheme will be replicated around the UK.”

    Safer Shops West has also been backed by shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw, and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), who are offering West of England stores free guidance to help them to identify the most effective use of their grants.

    James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said: “Independent convenience store retailers and their colleagues are too often the victims of shop theft and violent crime. Convenience stores across the UK invested £228m in crime prevention measures last year, but much of this would have been made by larger businesses. This funding will help small businesses to make their stores less attractive to criminals and safer for retailers and their colleagues.

    “We strongly encourage retailers to apply for these grants to fund the right security measures for their store, and we have free guidance to help them to identify the most effective use of these funds.”

    Mike Walker, Usdaw regional secretary for the South West, said: “There is a retail crime crisis, with Avon and Somerset suffering a 41 per cent increase in police recorded incidents of shoplifting. Theft from shops has effectively been decriminalised.

    “We welcome local initiatives to tackle this growing shoplifting epidemic and the action Dan Norris is taking as the West of England Mayor by introducing the ‘Safer Shops West’ initiative is much needed.“

    Fran Imman, head of Bids at Visit West, added: “One of our key objectives as the Business Improvement Districts or ‘Bids’ is to support our businesses to reduce the instances and impact of crime and anti-social behaviour.

    “We will be encouraging as many independent retailers in the West of England as possible to take a look at the Safer Shops West from the Mayoral Combined Authority.”

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