Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Radio warning network proposed for town centre

Shop radio network to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour

A RADIO network allowing town centre businesses to warn each other about crime and antisocial behaviour could be launched in Henley.

Police are encouraging shops, cafés and other retailers to start a Shop Watch scheme in which they would keep an eye out for shoplifters, fraudsters or violent and aggressive customers.

They would be linked by two-way radios and share information about suspicious or nuisance individuals and could ban persistent offenders from every participating business.

Those taking part would have stickers on their doors to warn criminals that they are being monitored and it is hoped that this would act as a deterrent.

The police would not run the scheme but would help get it off the ground and could be contacted via the radios for advice and support. Officers are looking for at least one business owner to act as co-ordinator and hope it could be launched within the next couple of months.

The scheme would be similar to the Pub Watch initiative, which was set up in 2012 to exclude troublemakers from the town’s hostelries.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “This will enable faster and better communication between the shops.

“For example, if a group were trying to spend counterfeit currency in one store, that shop could contact everyone else participating in Shop Watch to make them aware.

“Secondly, a person banned from one shop will be banned from all. This will cover any offence they have committed and hopefully reduce the number of problems in the town.” Henley town centre manager Helen Barnett said: “It will bring our retailers closer together and reduce any cases of anti-social behaviour, which will make the town a nicer environment for traders and shoppers alike.

“I meet the police regularly and this is very much on their agenda at the moment but we need a good number of people to embrace it for it to succeed.

“In Henley, we’re lucky not to have any serious problems but this will hopefully protect us while reducing the small number of incidents that do occur.”

The issue was discussed at a recent meeting of the town’s retail and hospitality forum, of which Ms Barnett is chairwoman.

During that meeting, concerns were also raised that traders lost footfall during Henley’s inaugural street food festival, which was held in Market Place last month.

The event, run by Blue Collar of Reading, brought 19 food stalls from outside the area into the town centre.

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street and is retail co-ordinator for the Henley Business Partnership, said cafés and restaurants lost business as a result.

He told Ms Barnett: “I understand that you are trying to encourage people to come into town but it’s actually taking money from the very people it’s supposed to help.

“It may have worked for the stallholders but many regular retailers lost out. Many of my customers didn’t bother coming in because they knew the traffic would be horrendous. My footfall was halved compared with the same weekend last year.”

Ms Barnett replied saying that local traders were given first refusal and, if the festival happens again, it would be made as easy as possible for them to take part and the benefits would be fully explained in advance.

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