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War against shoplifters goes hi-tech

Birmingham system predicts crime

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A Birmingham- based crime reduction scheme has developed technology to help retailers to stay one step ahead of shoplifters in the fight against retail crime.

Birmingham’s Retail Crime Operation (RCO) has gone live with a new database system that can predict patterns of criminal behaviour based on past experiences.

Chris James, MD of Birmingham’s Retail Crime Operation (RCO), said the scheme has used database systems since its inception in 1999 but the new system is far more advanced.

"The new system has a predictive element. We can look at patterns of data and analyse it in far greater details," he told El Reg. "By getting a clearer picture of what's likely to happen stores can be more pro-active rather than relying on chance to catch shoplifters."

The database system, dubbed Active Crime Intelligence System (ACIS), is based on Microsoft Access. It was developed in-house by Birmingham’s Retail Crime Operation (RCO) over the last 10 months. "There was nothing on the market that gave us what we wanted," said James.

James, a former police officer, said the system enabled it to warn member stores of who to look out for before crooks strike. This information could be used to prevent well know offenders from entering stores. Stores are emailed daily reports in the form of encrypted Word documents. These 'intelligence reports' contain photographs of suspects.

The system contains details of the criminal behaviour of more than 7,800 offenders. The system can help prevent stock loss, costs from which are ultimately paid by honest customers.

Active Crime Intelligence System has proved its worth in two months of operation. James reckons crooks are unlikely to change their offending behaviour in response to the technology.

"People are creatures of habit," he said. ®

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