It’s not exactly South Central Los Angeles, but Winchester in Hampshire isn’t the crime-free backwater our store would like it to be.
Four arrests, an identity parade and a series of interviews later and we’re feeling a little more conscious of the store’s vulnerability to shoplifters and a little more sensitive to the work of the police.
When the creepy-eyed guy and his unwholesome-looking girlfriend came into the shop they might as well have been sporting ‘crim’ tattoos on their foreheads and carrying swag bags.
Sales assistant Lindsey and I, with our traditional surveillance techniques, followed the suspicious pair around the womenswear floor, delighted with our cleverness in foiling the criminals.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the homeware department, another sales assistant, Wil, used more modern crime-prevention methods and watched a theft - perpetrated by an entirely different couple - in progress on our CCTV. He radioed for help.
Within moments, four police cars were parked across the shop’s entrance, the place was flooded with police, and the creepy-eyed pair and their innocent-looking accomplice twosome were arrested and taken away. A few hours later, all the stolen goods were returned to us.
It has been a surreal, chastening and informative experience. Aside from the lovely policeman who, in the middle of the arrests, congratulated me on the beautiful shop, I think we’ve learned that you can’t always judge by appearances. More importantly, we’ve realised we don’t have to do all the work ourselves, that there is an efficient system to co-ordinate street policing, city-wide CCTV footage and information from other retailers.
- Victoria Suffield is the owner of lifestyle retailer The Hambledon in Winchester, Hampshire