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Waitrose takes on permanent security guard to halt Marlborough shoplifting surge

A seven-days-a-week security guard goes on duty at Waitrose, Marlborough’s major store, today (Monday), in a bid to halt a spike of shoplifting that has hit the town’s High Street retailers in the past six months.

It follows a warning in the latest Marlborough Neighbourhood Policing Team’s newsletter of the increasing number of offenders who have been caught and charged partly due to improved internal CCTV systems.

But frustration remains among the police at the failure to install a sophisticated permanent High Street CCTV system that also tracks cars despite presentations made to Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and members of Marlborough Town Council.

Such is the surge in shoplifting that now Waitrose, which has an internal CCTV system, has gone a step further and hired a security guard of its own to cut mounting losses.

“There is no doubt about it that Marlborough is seen as a soft touch,” store manager Richard Clare (pictured) told Marlborough News Online.  “Once the shoplifter or criminal is out of the store, if they haven’t been caught by our very sophisticated CCTV system, then they can no longer be tracked.”

“That is the concern that other traders in the town have and it is my concern too.  If we could provide CCTV in the town it would be a really big deterrent against shoplifters coming into Marlborough from outside.”

“We have to install CCTV in the High Street if we are going to clear up the crime rate within the town.  It is a real essential to protect our businesses and our profits.”

“We need to apply as much pressure as we can to protect the town and provide a real deterrent.”

Waitrose has hired store detectives on an ad hoc basis in the past, uses staff training to help detect and deter thieves and robustly prosecutes all those caught.  But the past six months have shown a rise in the number of occasions police have had to be called by partners to arrest shoplifters.

But while the recession is seen as one reason for an increase in thefts – and the rise is replicated in Waitrose stores across the country -- one of the main attractions of the supermarket is its high quality, high value produce.

“Our wine, spirits and beer section has been a target for thieves and meat too, products which can be readily sold,” explained 35-year-old Mr Clare, who took over as manager only six weeks ago.  “We are well aware of that. So our partners are now very vigilant in these areas.”

There is concern too that other High Street stores – among those that have been hit are Landmark, Boots and the One Stop Shop – don’t always report thefts to the police because they believe it a waste of time without having outside CCTV tracking thieves.

“It is really important all traders do report crimes because they do need to protect themselves and protect their businesses – and other businesses around them too,” added Mr Clare.  “It will also give the police a more accurate picture of level of crime taking place.”

Tory members of the Town Council announced last October when Noel Barrett-Morton won a by-election that they were preparing a detailed report on the cost of introducing High Street CCTV but, as yet, no report has been presented.

Told of the Waitrose security guard decision, Councillor Noel Barrett-Morton revealed: “I regret to say that the wheels of bureaucracy grind very slowly.  I have had meetings recently with security system providers and have received three quotations for a suitable system.”

“There will also be a need to have a full technical survey carried out in consultation with Wiltshire Council. Therefore we do not have a firm date for presenting this information to the full Town Council for discussion and possible funding.”

He added: “I believe that nearly all the councillors are in favour of this project.  Two fellow councillors are on the working party and I will continue to press to have the proposal brought forward.”

Meanwhile, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce has had talks with the police and is also pressing for action to be taken.

Funding a CCTV system with volunteer monitors remains the problem to be overcome by the town council – its total budget it limited to £400,000 -- and will need to seek outside help, either from Wiltshire Council or government funds, to introduce a quality High Street CCTV system.

Marlborough News Online has requested the police to produce comparative statistics revealing the actual number of people detained and/or charged with shoplifting and other criminal offences in the shopping centre.

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