Engaging with the local community and adopting a non-confrontational approach can help retailers reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in stores, retailers were told last week.

Delegates at the Association of Convenience Stores' (ACS) Community Action Forum in Birmingham last week heard how good relationships were more effective than shelling out on highly visible security measures.

Speaking at the forum, community retailer Nigel Dowdney said that being a high-profile figure in his area ensured he was rarely troubled by anti-social behaviour. "I know virtually every local child and their parents by name and they know me, so I hardly ever get any problems," he said.

Nisa-Today's group symbol director John Heagney also emphasised the importance of having a positive relationship with local police.

"Sometimes retailers build walls against the police. This doesn't make sense and will ultimately work against them," he said. "When I used to own my own stores I encouraged officers to come in and have a cup of tea. We built up a fantastic relationship that way. Response times were fast, and it also meant that thieves and shoplifters left my store well alone."

Midcounties Co-operative retail operations manager Mike Abbott added that treating people with respect and adopting a non-confrontational approach to crime and customers also seemed to work wonders.

"Bizarrely, we've found that removing security guards from stores can help reduce crime," he said. "Putting a guard outside a door can actually antagonise customers and aggravate situations. A little respect goes a long way."