Blackburn Shopwatch Radio Scheme Tackling Retail Crime

Blackburn Shopwatch Radio Scheme Tackling Retail Crime

Radio security systems, often known as Shopwatch schemes, provide a vital service to retailers, high streets stores and shopping centres that need radios to assist in management, maintenance and surveillance. Radios have proved invaluable, allowing a quick method of alerting retailers and services in the scheme to the activities of would be shoplifters. Improved communications through the use of the radio system promotes co-operation among retailers and their staff and schemes.

Blackburn Business Against Crime (BBAC) is a successful retail consortium that over the last seven years has grown from just 20 radio users to over 100. This growth has been achieved by providing a proactive approach to tackling retail crime and anti social behaviour in what have been unique and challenging conditions. The Icom radios for the scheme have been supplied by Lancashire based radio dealer, Radio Service.

Ronnie O’Keeffe is the Chairman of Blackburn Businesses Against Crime. He said, ‘Part of the BBAC remit is to make sure that visitors to the town centre are safe and secure via the Shopwatch Radio link (currently we have 108 shops/users.) We are now expanding into the night time economy and so far we have 16-20 night time venues from pubs to restaurants on our new Pubwatch system.’

He said, ‘We try to look at BBAC as not just an ordinary ‘Shopwatch scheme’. We look at the bigger picture and see our job as trying to help reduce crime in Blackburn town centre. We work closely with the Police and PCSO’s and try to be as proactive as possible. For instance if we see a beggar or someone who is vulnerable we contact our street workers over radio asking them to introduce themselves, engage with them and find out the whole story before making a judgement about intervention. That potentially is stopping a crime or preventing something from happening in the town centre. All the proactive work we do through the Shopwatch scheme is added value for our members.

‘Teamwork is key and the BBAC work very closely with Blackburn Council, the police and all the retailers. We organise a lot of meetings, have a great website, a disc app, and have won awards for our open proactive approach such as ‘Operation DAD’ which is a Detect And Deter initiative.’

Ronnie said, ‘With ‘Operation DAD’ we essentially provide a shield around the town centre so that if any known offender comes into the area, it will be put over the radio, monitored and asking them to leave the shopping centre if they come in and take items. In its first year, we had 1,300 recorded deters…last year it was 1,400 and that wouldn’t have been possible without the Shopwatch scheme.’

Ronnie is also the Soft Service Manager for The Mall Blackburn. The Mall is an integral part of the town centre. It has over 110 shops with a 68,000 square foot council operated market underneath the shopping centre. The market operates six days a week.

Radio is also valuable in the facility management of the Mall shopping centre. Ronnie said, ‘we use radios for everything and anything. All our maintenance team use radios to communicate to keep in contact with the control room. Security not only use the radios for to monitor and deter subjects but also alert other issues when they arise. Cleaners are alerted of spillages over the radio to make sure that a customer doesn’t slip over.’

‘Radios in ‘The Mall’ is part of an integrated communication strategy which includes CCTV. Other technologies we use include body cams which were a massive new innovation when we brought them in 3 years ago and that saw antisocial behaviour cut by 60%. Verbal abuse to our officers was reduced by up to 20% just by having body cams. By having radio and CCTV as well can have a positive effect on calming people down and stopping incidents from escalating’.

He added, ‘we have used Radio Service for over a decade for all our communications needs and we have used Icom radios from day one as they are a reliable piece of kit. The service we have received from Radio Service has been second to none.’

For more details about The Mall Blackburn visit:

Contact Radio Service by telephone on 01772 628000, email at or visit their website.


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