Six robberies in six months would be enough to make any dedicated retailer shut up shop, but not Robert Madden, who runs a Costcutter store in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester.
Robert and his staff have been threatened with guns, knives, baseball bats, broken bottles and bricks, but the hardy retailer has a new weapon of his own which he hopes will put an end to the string of violent attacks. Robert has become the first retailer to install a new system from Redweb Security, which in the event of a crime will leave the perpetrator uniquely marked by a spray that is 100% detectable.
The i-power spray marks the criminal with a red indelible bio-synthetic DNA code, forensically linking the perpetrator to the place and time of the offence to ensure conviction.
"I've had seven robberies in just over 12 months and six of those have been since December 19," says Robert. "We're hoping the Redweb system will make a difference and that the signage will put robbers off."
Redweb Security maintains that by marking criminals with a highly visible dye, eye witness statements are enhanced and criminals' behavioural patterns change, increasing the chance of arrest. An ultra-violet element, which is visible through use of a UV lamp, becomes stronger as the red dye fades and washes out. The unique registered DNA of the alarm activated in the crime is matched through analysis and will provide solid evidence to gain a conviction.
Clive Smith, chairman of Redweb Security, says: "The difficulty in the UK is that unless the police catch the criminal in the act it's difficult to mount a successful conviction. According to Hazel Blears, 15% of crimes end in prosecution but the government's target is 25% by 2008. The difficulty is that we don't hear the conviction rates but we know that they're a fraction of the prosecutions mounted, and the reason for that is reasonable doubt.
"Our whole concept is about empowering business people to be able to provide police with irrefutable evidence."
Redweb has been working with traditional alarm installation company Safe Homes, and police Scene of Crime Officers have helped in the training of the Safe Homes engineers.
Redweb offers a range of finance schemes but the NFRN has struck an exclusive deal for members through which the new system is available from £10 a week for a three-year contract, including all maintenance and replacement canisters.
The system is accredited by the police's Secured by Design stamp, and point of sale material including window stickers and posters will act as a deterrent.
While Robert remains positive about the impact his new investment might have, he acknowledges that he has already spent a vast amount of money securing and protecting his store. "We have added new things every time we are held up and this is just the latest," he says. "We've got infra-red alarms, panic buttons that go direct to the police, wireless panic buttons, a drop safe for cash, and 11 cameras on two different systems. I make sure that the staff take money out of the till and put it in the safe straightaway so there's never much to take, and we also have a secure gantry for cigarettes.
"It's when we're shutting up shop that I get worried as that's when the robbers usually strike."
Robert hopes that the signage in the windows will deter any would-be robbers. "We are also telling everyone that comes in about the new system, and the community has been quite supportive of us. Redweb is good value - if the staff feel more at ease, it will be worth the money because they're the ones facing it. I would recommend it; I just hope it doesn't have to be used in my store."