When Jinx Hundal realised that shoplifting at his Budgens Norwich city store had reached an epidemic level, he knew he had to act fast and the local police station was one of the first places he looked to for help.
Jinx had became concerned about the amount of stock going missing and decided to take a closer look. "We started doing weekly tallies of how much was going missing and it was working out at about £300 a week," says Jinx. "Most of it was from the alcohol and fresh meat sections as they weren't protected properly."
Jinx realigned the CCTV system to pick up the blind spots in the store and then began logging every crime that took place and reporting it to the local police force. "The superintendent noticed that the amount of crimes reported for the store had multiplied, so he came down and visited us. He showed us where we could improve the visibility in the store, which was a great help."
On the superintendent's advice Jinx and his team moved some shelving which was blocking the view of the alcohol section and invested £3,000 in security for the store, which included bottle locks for all of the wine and spirits and a security surveillance window that offers a perfect view of the alcohol section from the office.
"We were losing between £80 and £100 on wine a week in the store," says Jinx. "People were coming in and helping themselves. We had one guy who would steal two or three bottles on a regular basis. Since we introduced the bottle locks and rearranged the shelving it has dropped to just one bottle of wine stolen in the past 10 weeks."
As well as making the alcohol section more secure, Jinx put electronic tags on other high-value items which were proving popular with shoplifters, such as meat. "As soon as anyone tries to leave with a tagged item the alarms will go off, and even if they get away we'll be able to view them on the CCTV and give the footage to the police."
The measures have worked and shoplifting has now fallen to less than £30 a week, and Jinx gives huge credit to Police Constable Dave Block for helping to achieve this. "Our local police liaison is brilliant," he says. "Dave Block is assigned to this store so he knows us well and if we call the station with a problem, it's him we speak to. He has informed us of our rights when it comes to removing offenders from the store and always makes himself available when needed. We wouldn't have been able to cut the shoplifting rate without him."
Jinx is also full of praise for his staff for their help, too. "Previously, I had a management team who were happy to turn a blind eye to the situation. Even when staff members told them something was going on, they would say they were handling it, but nothing was done.
"Now my staff are 100% vigilant and always on the lookout for suspicious behaviour. I print out CCTV footage and put it on the 'Wall of Shame' in the canteen so the staff get a good look at suspects. I always tell my staff not to risk their safety, though, even if they see me doing it it's my store and my responsibility and I wouldn't ask anyone else to put their lives in danger for it."
PC Block of Norfolk Constabulary says that any retailer who finds himself in the same situation as Jinx needs to take a tough stance. "You must make staff members aware of the situation and keep them on the lookout for potential criminal behaviour," he says.
He also urges retailers to report all crime, no matter how insignificant. "The police can only act on the information that is given to them," says Block. "Crime needs to be reported so we can prevent it happening again. Jinx and his staff have been great about this; his efforts have helped us reduce crime in the whole area."
Jinx adds: "Even if it's someone stealing something worth just 20p, I'll still report it. What starts at 20p soon becomes £20 and then we're back to where we started.
"This is my livelihood and when someone steals from the store, they're stealing out of my pocket."
Jinx also obtains banning orders for those who are caught stealing to stop them coming back. "It was usually the same few people who committed most of the crimes. I called them the 'Norwich Nasties', but now they're not allowed back in the store."
Block adds that this attitude is essential when attempting to cut out shoplifting in a store. "If a retailer is cracking down on shop theft and is reporting every incident to the police, then word gets around among those who are responsible for it," he says. "The more stores that behave like this, the harder it becomes for shoplifters to operate and the easier it becomes for the police to trace them."
Jinx has been so impressed with the support offered by the police that he has applied to become a Special Constable. "I'm hoping that the experience will help me protect my store, but I also see it as a means of giving something back to those who have helped me so much over the past year," explains Jinx. "Special Constables have to do at least 16 hours a month, which is fine by me it's the least I can do.
"There's a lot of training involved, but it'll give me a chance to see other aspects of policing that I wouldn't otherwise," he adds. "We will go into the finer details of the law, as well as being taught how to deal with situations that could become dangerous."
PC Block agrees that the skills learnt could be helpful to c-store workers. "Training to become a Special Constable can help retailers improve their crime awareness," he says. "It will help them read situations better and be able to recognise when a situation may turn nasty. The training also covers how you can deal with a person safely and not let the situation escalate into violence. For retailers this is very important. If someone in a store could potentially become violent, then they should know how to pre-empt this without risking their safety or that of their staff."
Block adds that the training could improve leadership and people skills, too. "Someone working in retail can really benefit from learning to deal with people in tough situations."
Although he's still in the early stages of his career in the force, Jinx has big ambitions. "I'm hoping to be assigned to the retail theft unit as I would have great experience in this area and could bring a lot to it. But I would be happy to be assigned to any team as it's a great opportunity to learn."
If Jinx puts the same level of dedication into protecting the streets of Norwich as he does defending his store, then other retailers and residents can sleep a lot safer in their beds.