New technology aids shopkeepers

Shopkeepers in Forest Gate now have a new weapon to help them in their fight against crime.

More than 60 retailers in Woodgrange Road have received new security technology allowing them to warn each other about potential threats.

Described as the borough’s latest weapon in the fight against shop-based crime, the Alert Box scheme is the first of its kind in Newham. It was introduced by police and Newham Council.

It aims to establish a digital network to link businesses together so they can warn each other if they spot known criminals operating in their area.

The system is simple to use and acts as like an electronic Neighbourhood Watch helping tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB), criminal activity and improve relationships between businesses. Shopkeepers have been issued with a stand alone ‘AlertBox’ unit that plugs into a mains socket behind their shop counter.

Staff can press an orange button to send a warning about suspicious or threatening behaviour, or a red one if they need help. This alert message, which includes the sender’s contact details, is then immediately received by all the neighbouring businesses who are participating in the scheme.

Depending on the circumstances of the alert, the neighbouring shopkeepers then respond by making a phone call to the sender, visiting the shop or by calling 999.

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A survey of 56 Woodgrange Road shopkeepers in early 2010 found that many did not know their neighbouring businesses.

Mr. Irfan Ahmed Owner of Sola Satellites used the AlertBox when a customer became very aggressive in his shop and started to damage fixtures and act in a threatening manner. Several neighbouring traders immediately responded to the alert message by visiting Mr. Ahmed’s shop and the situation quickly calmed down with the customer deciding to leave. Chief Inspector De Souza Brady said: “The Forest Gate Safer Neighbourhoods Team and the council have worked very hard in ensuring each shop has the system up and running. I have every confidence that Alert Box will bring the local community and police closer together, reduce crime and ASB and unite businesses.”

Councillor Unmesh Desai, cabinet member for crime and anti-social behaviour, said: “I think the joint partnership of the police and council in funding this scheme will no doubt reduce the incidents of threatening or anti-social behaviour across our businesses in Forest Gate.”