CHRIS MANN: An Asda supermarket in Wisbech has been given a list of improvements to implement to save its alcohol licence. Repeated thefts of booze from the shop, and a stream of violent incidents led Cambridgeshire police to challenge their licence to sell alcohol. Inspector Robin Sissons has more. (TAPE)
ROBIN SISSONS: Well because of the economic climate being as it is at the moment, we’ve seen an increase in shoplifting. Now obviously normally we work in partnership with shops, and we have increased patrols in the shops. We sometimes put crime prevention cars out the front called the Rap car. Or we put literature in the shop and help wherever we can. On this occasion the staff didn’t seem to be willing to engage with the police, and in fact they were doing the opposite. They were really trying to detect crime by challenging people after they’d committed the crime, rather than trying to reduce crime by once identifying a possible offender, saying to them “excuse me, can we help you”, and trying to put them off the crime, rather than allowing them to commit it. So after three or four months of negotiations with the staff, it wasn’t going well, and mediation failed. So in the end we had to call a review, I’m afraid.
CHRIS MANN: So you’re challenging its licence. What happens next?
ROBIN SISSONS: Well basically we had a full hearing on Friday, it took all day, where we presented our case to the Licensing Panel. And the ASDA lawyers came down and they put their reasons for not engaging with us to the Panel as well. And then the Panel made a decision that actually they wanted more conditions being put on the licence, so that more crime reduction initiatives were used.
CHRIS MANN: Did you understand the ASDA point of view? What was it?
ROBIN SISSONS: Basically ASDA were concerned first of all because we were suggesting that because of the demographics of Wisbech, most commonly used languages should be displayed on these posters. And ASDA were fearful that this may lead to legal objections going in from certain members of the community from minority backgrounds. So they were opposing that one. And also ASDA was saying that they were concerned about too many signs et cetera being in their shop.
CHRIS MANN: OK. So what happens next?
ROBIN SISSONS: Basically the Licensing Committee have made their decision. What will happen now is we’ll have a three month action plan period, where they will have to put in the new crime reduction initiatives. And then hopefully we’ll see some results. I have to say ASDA have been very very positive since the hearing, and are trying to work with us as much as they possibly can.
CHRIS MANN: What about the customers? Do they understand what’s going on?
ROBIN SISSONS: I think the customers are grateful that the shop is trying to reduce crime, because at the end of the day no-one wants to be shopping and be confronted with a drunk, or a shoplifter who’s under the influence of alcohol. So I think that’s a positive thing. And also the staff at the shop, at the end of the day they don’t want to be working in an environment where you do have drunks. And I’ve always said the police are always happy to attend, and in fact the store is just across the road from the police station. And it was a case of we’re here to help, but you need to come half way with us.
CHRIS MANN: Is this just a Wisbech problem, or is it a wider one do you think?
ROBIN SISSONS: Certainly in the county of Cambridgeshire we’ve seen an increase in shoplifting overall. And we’ve seen that the type of offence changing as well. Because where before it’s traditionally high value goods, at the moment we’re seeing that actually people are stealing food items like cheese and bread. A lot of value goods have gone down. I think it’s a national thing at the moment, whilst the economy is in the situation it is. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Inspector Robin Sissons there.