Retailers in Northampton left vulnerable to potential break-ins and shoplifting during the enforced lockdown have praised business leaders for stepping up security and making the town centre a “no-go zone” for criminals.
With retail staffing levels scaled back because of the expected drop in footfall, businesses were concerned they would become vulnerable to opportunist thieves.
But the Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) intervened and funded an additional six policing shifts every week, bolstering front line policing and ensuring members’ businesses were protected.
Operation Challenge saw officers make 491 alcohol seizures, carry out 128 stop searches, compile 309 intelligence logs and make 80 arrests in the town centre between September 2020 and March this year.
Mark Mullen, Northampton BID Operations Manager, said: “We want to make sure Northampton town centre is a safe and enjoyable place for people to live, work and visit.
“The COVID-19 lockdown obviously saw footfall reduce significantly with some retailers forced to close and others reducing their staff to ensure profitability remained intact, our members were concerned they would be left vulnerable, with little to no deterrent for criminals.
“By stepping in and funding extra shifts we have not only helped protect our members, but we have also made sure our town centre has become a no-go zone for those looking to take advantage of the situation that businesses found themselves in due to the pandemic.
“This has given retailers and business owners the confidence to know their property is safe and stock is still being well monitored during opening hours. We have heard first-hand from members about the difference it has made. One business owner said they could barely sleep at night for fear of shop lifters taking advantage of the fact there were fewer staff working, but we have given them peace of mind.”
By stepping in and funding extra shifts we have not only helped protect our members, but we have also made sure our town centre has become a no-go zone for those looking to take advantage of the situation that businesses found themselves in due to the pandemic. Northampton BID Operations Manager Mark Mullen
The Police Inspector for Northampton Andy Blaize said “We’re very grateful for the continued support we get from the Northampton BID who we work with very closely. The extra resource we are able to provide in the Town Centre has led to the reduction of Anti-Social behaviour and incidents of crime. We strive to make Northampton a safe place to live and work.”
The Northampton Town Anti-Social Behaviour Reporting Scheme (NTARS) is also providing further support to Operation Challenge.
Launched in 2019, it continues to provide town centre businesses easy access to reporting any anti-social behaviour and low-level crime via an easy-to-use app.
The information is fed directly to the West Northamptonshire Council’s (WNC) Anti-Social Behaviour Case management team and the Northampton Business Crime Partnership (NBCP), which is based within Campbell Square Police Station.
BID Director Kerry Reynolds, of Metro Bank in Abington Street, said: “Northampton town centre has so much to offer that we’re thrilled that the BID is investing so heavily into preventing anti-social behaviour. I’m very much looking forward to watching our glorious town once again thrive and become the go to place for families and shoppers to spend their free time.”
The NTARS app also hosts pictures of repeat offenders and allows users to trade information about trouble they may have encountered in the town centre.
Any reports of rough sleeping is also sent to the WNC Outreach Team so positive interventions can be put in place to help keep any vulnerable people off the streets.
Membership to NTARS is offered free to all BID members and any business who is not a levy payer may apply to become a voluntary member which will give them access to the app.