Business owners have been urged to sign up to a scheme that catches shoplifters and supports traders. 

Darlington Borough Council has relaunched its Shopwatch scheme following a rise in crime, with shoplifting a particular issue in the town centre. 

More than 50 businesses have now signed up to the relaunched scheme, which provides people with radios and phones so they can quickly share information about suspicious activity with the police.

Figures show crime in Darlington increased in the year to July 2023, with 4,395 total reported crimes across the borough. Incidents in the town centre are up 11 per cent to 541 in the same time period

But Durham police say the team effort will create a proactive approach to reducing the high rates before the busy Christmas period. 

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Dean Flinn, a PCSO in the town centre, said: “Crime has been on the increase and it’s a good time to get everyone back together. We have lost a few stores in the town centre and it will be easier to combat shoplifting if we work together.”

The Northern Echo: Members of the local authorities involved in the relaunched Shopwatch scheme on Wednesday Members of the local authorities involved in the relaunched Shopwatch scheme on Wednesday (Image: The Northern Echo)

Store owners have warned they could be forced to relocate due to the financial cost of replacing stock following theft incidents. 

Council Leader Stephen Harker hopes Shopwatch will ensure the borough is a safer place for business owners and an attractive place to visit for shoppers. 

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He said: “ The scheme is about shops working in cooperation with the police and the local authority. The impact it can have on small businesses cannot be understated.”

And Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen said shoppers can also play their part. “It is so important that if you’re in a shop and you see something suspicious, report it and help protect that business,” she said.  

“This intelligence helps us catch those responsible, bring them to justice and ensure County Durham and Darlington remains a safe place to work and live.”