If somebody walks into range of your camera, fully aware that they are being filmed, and they still pinch from you, then why shouldn't you process the stills and put them up on display?
Farooq Alam sent his story to me via our website (www.convenience-store.co.uk). He has a Costcutter store at Orpington in Kent which he took over three years ago. He said: "I had a problem every day. Sometimes 10 to 15 youths would come in and walk away with cases of beer or big bottles of Lambrini."
He had CCTV installed as a deterrent, but it didn't stop the problem entirely. Then he had the idea of printing the stills and displaying them under the heading 'Disgraceful shoplifters'.
He said: "You wouldn't believe the effect it had. The police initially quietly said I might be breaking the Data Protection Act, but when I explained that there is a lot less chance I would be calling 999 I think they were happy.
"It has really worked for me. Now the police even come in to scrutinise the pictures for certain people they are looking for, so I'm quite at ease with the stance I took."
I thought I would see what the Information Commissioner's office had to say. The first person I spoke to, a very stern woman, immediately said: "He can't
do that. He is processing personal data."
I said, well, you might call it that, but he calls it taking pictures of people stealing from him. In the end, she conceded that he could keep the pictures under the counter and show them to staff.
I rang back - because I had forgotten to ask what the penalties were - and got someone else who said: "Well, you can understand why he is doing it. Anyway, we are not a punishing body, we are just here to seek compliance. It is not a crime to breach Data Protection."
As I see it, Farooq will only have the Data Protection mob on his case if one of the thieves complains.

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