Crackdown on crime

POLICE have maintained an increased presence at Riverside Plaza this year with new crime statistics revealing shoplifting offences have increased in Queanbeyan by over 300 per cent in 12 months.

The latest quarterly Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) figures detail 178 instances of 'steal from retail store' in Queanbeyan between September 2011 and September 2012, up from 54 instances the previous year.

Heidi Flaherty of Riverside Plaza centre management said the increase was partly due to a police crackdown on shoplifting in the plaza.

"There has been an increased presence in the centre with police, with some in plain clothes, some in uniform, and we're always happy to cooperate with any activity they want to do to crack down on shoplifting and just [maintain the] general safety in the plaza," Ms Flaherty said.

"They have really been putting in a lot of effort to crack down on it, and also to make an increased presence known.

"So they are visible and it increases the message that they are watching and you have to stick by the rules," she said.

Dimitries Jewellers owner Steve Stavreas has felt the impact of shoplifting since moving to the plaza in May, and has introduced increased security measures following the brazen snatch and grab of a $6000 engagement ring from his store in September.

"In the first three months we were here, we had three instances of snatch and grabs. We've now taken the position that each incident will not be taken lightly and we intend to seek support from the police to identify the individuals involved through the use of CCTV footage, where they are seen to steal from the store," Mr Stavreas said.

"We've now put in place systems where we can still display merchandise, but we may request photo ID if anyone wants to handle expensive items. And most of our customers understand and comply without feeling offended.

"But at these times when the economy is tough, then you'll find that these sorts of incidents definitely grow," he said.

Coles Supermarket has also maintained consistent anti-theft operations throughout the year, but new store manager Luke Howard said the introduction of self-checkout registers earlier this year hadn't resulted in an increased amount of shoplifting

.

"There was a big concern when stores first put them in that it would be [an increased security risk], but what we've found is that people who are going to steal are going to steal, it doesn't matter what register they go through," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Stavreas said there was scope for increased communication between retailers to combat theft.

"Maybe we develop a retailer blog site where we all inform each other of various instances so we can all become more aware of any increases in shoplifting or offer each other suggestions on how to stop this from happening," he said.

"There are things retailers can do. It's the trusting nature of individuals that prompts you to expose themselves [to crime]. When you take an expensive item and hand it over to a potential customer to handle and view, which is what jewellery is all about, you immediately create an opportunity for loss."

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