Raj Aggarwal
Londis, Wigston, Leicestershire
Eager to create new points of difference for his shop, Raj has recently returned from a study tour of South Africa where he visited numerous wine producers. 

Chris Pollard
Barlby Village Stores, Selby
Chris gave his business a real boost last year by joining symbol group Nisa. He reports that sales are now up a whopping 18% year on year. 

James Brundle
Spar, Walthamstow, London
Spar Walthamstow was crowned Retailer of the Year at Convenience Store’s 2011 Awards. To stay on top, James is always trying out new ideas, such as his successful in-store pizzeria. 

Chris Mitchener
Swan Street Stores, Hampshire
With 37 years of retail experience under his belt, Chris knows the importance of continual development and is always on the lookout for new ways to develop his store.

What type of crime causes you the most problems?
: Customer theft is the main problem. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does you have to take it on the chin.
Chris P: Customer theft can be problematic. I’ve got 16 cameras here, but the difficulty is getting the time to follow suspects.
James: Shoplifting occurs on a weekly basis. It’s been getting worse recently because of the way the economy is going. We take a really hard stance on it though. Even if someone’s just stealing a penny sweet, we’ll call the police.
Chris M: Theft happens all the time. It’s an on-going problem.

What equipment do you use to reduce or prevent crime?
: We have CCTV, and we tag all our alcohol with security caps. We don’t have lasers or anything, but we have night shutters and Redcare security.
Chris P: I built a disabled access ramp and steps outside the store. Trying to drive up that would wreck a vehicle. I have steel automatic shutters, and I’ve also put the cashpoint in an inaccessible place at a right angle to the entrance so that it would be very difficult to pull out.
James: We have every piece of security gear you can get - 15 security cameras, Redcare, store shutters and so on. A lot of the time, one of the best ways to reduce crime is simply by staff being vigilant - watching out for potential shoplifters wearing Puffa jackets in the summer.
Chris M: We have 24-hour CCTV and cameras on the shopfront, as well as an alarm system.

Do you see crime as inevitable, or could the authorities be doing more?
: The police and authorities could be doing more. The sentences being 

Do you have a good relationship with the local police?
: We have a good relationship with the local police as they approachable. We always report crimes. The more you report, the more the police can gather evidence, so that if the same person tries to steal from another store they are more likely to be caught.
Chris P: Our local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) and officers pop in now and again. We give them a cup of tea when they visit - the longer the police cars are parked outside the store, the better.
James: Our PCSO comes to the store most days. He’s quite pro-active, and pretty good. The actual police are frustrating sometimes - they take too long to answer my calls.
Chris M: We have a really good relationship with the police here. They are exemplary in our area.

handed out to criminals need to be tougher.
Chris P: The authorities could be doing more. I would like to see shoplifters clamped down on. They’re thieves and need reprimanding.
James: The police need to do more. Sometimes I ring them about a shoplifter and it takes them an hour-and-a-half to turn up, and then they’ll just let the person go.
Chris M: I don’t see theft as inevitable - it’s more likely to occur in some areas than others.

Do you train your staff in crime prevention and reduction?
: We do. The most important thing is that they are not harmed. Staff know to approach shoplifters, but if there are any reprisals then they are to back away. We have panic buttons for them to use.
Chris P: In the case of robberies, I drill it into staff that they are to just give the robbers what they want and don’t worry about the shop.
James: I make sure staff know not to put themselves in vulnerable positions. If there is a suspect shoplifter, then I tell staff not to accuse them directly, but to fill up shelves nearby so that the thief knows they are being watched. People tend to get the hint.
Chris M: Staff are asked to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. They are not to approach anyone themselves, but to report it to management. If we see someone shoplifting, we give them a basket, and ask them to put the products in there, rather than their pockets!

Which organisations are most helpful in offering advice on crime prevention?
: The Association of Convenience Stores is always helpful. The police will also advise you, but they won’t come to you - you have to go to them.
Chris P: I don’t really go looking for advice, I think a lot of it is just common sense.
James: The police might be helpful if I had a query, but I don’t really need to ask them as I know what to look out for - any experienced retailer does.
Chris M: The police and the Assocation of Convenience Stores crime forums are helpful.

How do you get the support of the community?
: If you are a community retailer then people will be sympathetic to some degree. They see your store as their own, so they will help if they can. If they spot something suspicious, or if another customer gets aggressive, then they’ll step in.
Chris P: Just by being part of the community you can gain the public’s support. If you are friendly with your customers then they’ll look after you.
James: Our village is a really good community. All the local businesses look out for each other and let each other know if there’s been any trouble.
Chris M: By being a fair retailer. If no one thinks you’re trying to roll them over on price, and if you provide a good service, customers will support you.

What’s the worst crime you have experienced?
: We had a drug addict steal a load of cheese and gammon, and we’ve also had someone try to steal champagne. On both occasions, we caught the people and made them return the stock.
Chris P: The worst was when someone broke in through the roof. Our alarms went off as soon as they got into the store and they didn’t get away with anything, but did cause damage.
James: We’ve had people breaking in through the flats above and through the ceiling. They took several thousands of pounds-worth of stock. They never got caught because they were wearing masks.
Chris M: The biggest problem we had was a ram raid. They stole an empty till and the cashpoint, which hadn’t even been commissioned, so there was nothing in it. Even though they didn’t get away with much, it still cost me £8,000 in damage, lost business, and loss of produce.