Facebook scheme to stop crime hitting city businesses

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A FACEBOOK-style network allowing shops and nightclubs to instantly share photos of shoplifters and thieves is the latest weapon being used to tackle crime against businesses in a Yorkshire city.

The new ‘mobile platform’ available to hundreds of companies in Leeds city centre means staff can take pictures of suspected criminals and send them immediately to the smartphones of other firms.

It is hoped the new technology will help companies quickly identify criminals, ranging from organised gangs of thieves to aggressive beggars, and stop them before they have a chance to target multiple venues across the city.

The scheme has been developed by Business Against Crime in Leeds, which already has a “rogues gallery” of known offenders on its website accessible by the group’s 300 members.

But the crime-fighting partnership’s co-ordinator Sean Walker said the new technology would “have a significant impact on the speed with which we are able to react to incidents and apprehend offenders.”

Under the new scheme, a store manager or doorman could take a picture of a trouble-making person or group and upload it, meaning an alert would immediately go out to other businesses.

Mr Walker, a former policeman before taking on his role, said the new system would be available on all types of smartphones or tablet devices and would complement the group’s existing radio system.

He said: “If you have a thief who had long hair previously and changes their hair, someone can say ‘I know your face, you are not coming in’ and put it round on the mobile phone. It is live information we are working with.

“It will be like using Facebook, you will take a picture and put it up in real time. You could also use it for if a group of lads turn up at the bar and for whatever reason get turned away.”

Crimes against businesses across the UK cost £19 billion a year, with firms in Leeds city centre having a particular problem with thefts of personal items and mobile phones.

Mr Walker said: “You will have some organised gangs who will target students. They will turn up at venues and there will be a lot of mobile phones being stolen in a short space of time. That is when you know there is an organised gang there.”