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Crime Group Tracks Down Handbag Thief With Text Message
Eastbourne Business Crime Group members are celebrating yet another success following the retrieval of contents from a stolen handbag, accompanied by the unwitting thief, within just 20 minutes, all thanks to a text message.
The contents of the handbag stolen from a shopper in the Eastbourne town centre branch of Sainsbury’s on 12th March, emerged in Sports Soccer just 20 minutes later, as the thief tried to use the owner’s credit card.

The unsuspecting thief however did not bank on the store having access to the Eastbourne Business Crime Group’s new Shopwatch radio system. The town recently became the first shopping centre in the UK to trial the innovative new voice and data radio system, which is designed to speed up crime reporting using text messaging technology.

Unbeknown to the thief, the fast acting Eastbourne Arndale Centre security guards had already sent a text message of the owners credit card details across the system, from their control room computer, within minutes of the stolen handbag being reported.

Vigilant staff in Sports Soccer matched the name in the text message with the stolen card and were immediately able to inform Arndale Security Guards, who came and detained the individual. In the meantime Police were called and arrived to arrest the offender who was released on Police Bail, and is awaiting charges. Arndale Centre Security Staff were then able to return the credit card and a social security book to the delighted rightful owner.

Bill Plumridge, Manager of the Arndale Centre and Chairman of the Eastbourne Business Crime Group said: ‘We are delighted that due to the actions of our security staff along with those of the staff in Sports Soccer we were able to apprehend the individual and reunite the customer with her belongings. Text messaging has proved to be a great advance in reporting criminal activity and gives further evidence as to why every retailer in Eastbourne should consider joining the group.’

Sergeant Melanie Presland, of the Sussex Police Business Crime Team, said “We are pleased to work in partnership with local businesses and the Eastbourne Business Crime Group and fully support the new radiolink which has produced this excellent result. Well done to everyone involved.”

The innovative new Fast Frequency Shift Keying voice and data system has proved successful for the Eastbourne Business Crime Group as it allows users to send text messages regarding criminal activity in just half a second to individual shops or groups of businesses, Police and CCTV operators. As radio users often don’t hear messages or forget descriptions, the text messages can be stored in the radio for ongoing reference, and it also means shoppers do not overhear sensitive information.

The Group has been running for just 8 months and has already achieved the Home Office Safer Shopping Award, with Eastbourne being one of the first towns in East Sussex to win the award. A subgroup of the Eastbourne Crime Reduction Partnership, its members include Sussex Police, Eastbourne Borough Council and over 100 local businesses.

The Group recently achieved it’s first two Anti-Social Behaviour Orders against two persistent offenders and has also issued exclusion notices banning prolific offenders from entering any of the member’s premises displaying the Red Hand sign.

As well as town centre businesses, the group also has members in Langney, Old Town and Seaside Road. The scheme could eventually cover all of Eastbourne, incorporating non-retail business premises, such as hotels and taxi services.

In addition to arranging exclusion notices against persistent offenders, members can benefit from up to date photographs, training in conflict management, crime prevention advice, regular newsletters and quarterly meetings. Businesses can join the scheme by contacting the Business Crime Manager on 01323 415411.
23 March, 2004

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