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Officers across Merseyside will be clamping down on thieves or offenders who make the most of the festive season by causing misery for others in the run up to Christmas. Traditionally at this time of the year thieves step up a gear – shops are stocking up for Christmas, members of the public are buying Christmas presents and business is booming – the opportunities are just too good to miss for the enterprising rogue about town.

But the message for would be thieves is clear – Christmas is a time for giving, not taking. And thanks to this initiative opportunities for would-be offenders will be limited and there will be no hiding place.

Each of the six force areas (Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, Liverpool North, Liverpool South and St Helens) will be providing an increased presence in the city, town centres and shopping parades throughout Merseyside.

Using intelligence-led policing, officers will be patrolling key vulnerable locations for retail crime across the county in a bid to deter criminals who target retail premises.

As part of the initiative officers will also be using forensic spray to security mark stock in vulnerable retail stores alongside trackers and fogging devices. The forensic spray is invisible to the human eye but contaminates people who handle items marked with the solution. The use of forensic spray has been a valuable tool successfully used in the prevention and detection of cash-in-transit robberies previously.

The use of the forensic spray will be supplemented by trackers which will be attached to various items in retail stores, if these items are stolen officers will be able to track where they are. For the first time on Merseyside officers will also be providing vulnerable retailers with fogging devices, which can be set off by shopkeepers to disorientate offenders who threaten them, or demand cash or goods without any intention to pay for them. When detonated the fogging device will fill the store with a thick fog, which will disorientate offenders and along with the use of the forensic spray should act as a deterrent. Chief Inspector Jenny Sims, said: “Sadly, in the run up to Christmas some people see our retail premises as an easy target and in recent weeks we have seen a number of incidents involving shoplifting and robberies at off-licences, bookmakers, supermarkets and other retail stores. We have made arrests in relation to a number of these offences and our message is clear – we are investing significant resources in to tackling this type of crime and there is no hiding place.

“In the last few weeks the force has been liaising with national retail outlets, including ASDA and The Co-Operative, and local smaller retailers to help them target harden their stores and make them less attractive to potential offenders. In the weeks leading up to Christmas the force will be providing an intelligence led response to retail crime and we will be carrying out high visibility policing in vulnerable locations providing support to local shops and businesses. The high visibility patrols will be complemented by plain clothes officers on the lookout for those intent on committing crime at local stores.

“Retail businesses provide a vital service to our communities, so preventing these crimes is in everyone’s interest. The impact that these offences, particularly robbery, can have on those who work in the stores is huge. Sometimes if a store has been subjected to a robbery it can be difficult for staff to face going back in to work, as they fear it may happen again. We will not tolerate offenders who target local stores and create a climate of fear and intimidation and will use all the tools in our armoury to deter and prevent this type of crime and lock up those responsible for committing this retail crime.”

Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “Shopkeepers and workers provide a vital service to our communities. Nobody should go to work fearing violence, threats or abuse. The impact of criminal attacks on these premises can be huge and have significant long-term effects on both employees and business. That is why I welcome Merseyside Police’s decision to invest significant resources to combating shoplifting and robberies at premises across the region during the festive season.   “I am delighted to see that some major retail outlets, as well as smaller stores, have chosen to get involved with the Force’s initiative. This campaign is not only using intelligence-led and high visibility policing, but also exploring new methods to deter and prevent this type of crime, keeping our shops and retailers safe over Christmas and beyond.”   Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member Communities and Environment, said: “Any initiative which helps tackle retail crime, especially in the run up to Christmas, is welcomed in Sefton.

“Christmas should be one of the busiest times of the year for retailers and they should not have to suffer at the hands of thieves.

“Any form of retail crime can have a lasting effect on our communities and hopefully this Merseyside-wide campaign will let any potential thieves know that crime doesn’t pay.”   Derek Broadhurst, Regional Operations Manager for The Co-operative Food in Merseyside, said: “Thefts from stores should never be disguised as ‘victimless’. As a retailer in the heart of local communities across Merseyside, stealing from a store often has the same impact as a crime against an individual in the area. We are fully committed to working in partnership with Merseyside Police to tackle retail crime, and to help create stronger and safer communities for everyone.”

Media opportunity: Members of the media are invited to attend a demonstration of the fogging device in action at the Bargain Booze off-licence, Marian Square, Netherton, at 12.30pm on Thursday, 28 November. Chief Inspector Jenny Sims and Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy will be available for interview. Please contact Donna Dawber, or Nick Lakeman in the media team if you wish to attend.

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