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YEAR-LONG TOWN CENTRE BANS - WITHOUT COMMITTING A CRIME

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A new Stafford BC initiative to cut crime will see shoplifters and trouble-makers being banned from town centre sho...
A new Stafford BC initiative to cut crime will see shoplifters and trouble-makers being banned from town centre shops.

Called BARCS - Business Against Retail Crime in Stafford - the new organization will be launched later this year, with special 'exclusion zones' being set up to prevent offenders from entering town shops.

'Together with the police, SBC Community Safety Team and other interested parties, we want to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in the town and create a better environment for our residents and visitors,' said Russ Cartlidge, SBC's community safety co-ordinator, and principal organiser of BARCS.

Although there are several crime reduction schemes already operating in Stafford town centre, such as 'Store-Watch', 'Pub-Watch' and CCTV, there is no one, central team dealing with the issues that affect borough residents. BARCS will take on this role of sharing information and acting as control centre.

'We will be looking to launch BARCS in the Autumn, and one of the first measures it introduces will be the setting up of exclusion zones in the town centre,' said Mr Cartlidge.

Anyone who has been convicted of any offence of dishonesty, which includes shoplifting, credit card fraud or acts of antisocial behaviour, including violence against sales assistants, will automatically be banned from all BARCS premises within the exclusion zone.

BARCS members will also receive a monthly DVD, containing photographs and details of all known, convicted offenders covered by the exclusion zone. However, it will also be possible to bar people who have not been convicted of a crime, but who have been acting in an unacceptable, antisocial manner.

'If people enter a BARCS member's premises and behave in an antisocial way, but they aren't actually breaking the law, we can still take action against them,' explained Mr Cartlidge. 'The BARCS member will be able to submit a written report to the co-ordinator, who will then collate any other complaints.

'Once five complaints have been received against the same person, that individual will receive a warning letter. If a subsequent five complaints are received, then an exclusion notice will be served on that person.'

Although there is a right to appeal against an exclusion notice, once in place the order will last for a minimum of 12 months.

'The exclusion zone is just one of several initiatives which BARCS will be introducing over the coming months,' says Russ. 'We aim to make Stafford town centre an even safer place in which to work and visit.'

Last week, Stafford'ss BARCS initiative gained government backing when it won a prestigious Safer Business Award.

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