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.
Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District 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 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.”
The Northampton Town Antisocial Behaviour Reporting Scheme is providing further support to Operation Challenge.
Launched in 2019, it enables town centre businesses to report any anti-social behaviour and low-level crime via an easy-to-use app. The information is fed directly to West Northamptonshire Council’s anti-social behaviour case management team and the Northampton Business Crime Partnership, based within Campbell Square Police Station.
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.
Reports of rough sleeping are also sent to the WNC outreach team, which intervenes to help keep vulnerable people off the streets.
Membership to NTARS is free to all BID members and any business that is not a levy payer can apply to become a voluntary member which will give them access to the app.
BID director Kerry Reynolds, of Metro Bank in Abington Street, said: “Northampton town centre has so much to offer that we are thrilled that the BID is investing so heavily into preventing antisocial behaviour. I am 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 impact of the pandemic led to footfall in the town centre plummeting. Some retailers were forced to close and others cut back on staff to maintain their profitability. The BID’s actions gave retailers confidence that their property and stock were protected, said Mr Mullen.
“We want to make sure Northampton town centre is a safe and enjoyable place for people to live, work and visit,” he added.
“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.”
Inspector Andy Blaize, of Northampton Police, said: “We are very grateful for the continued support we get from the Northampton BID whom we work with very closely. The extra resource we are able to provide in the town centre has led to the reduction of antisocial behaviour and incidents of crime. We strive to make Northampton a safe place to live and work.”