The Beacon’s shoplifting nightmare

Image credit: Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. (https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/6175364, for image in infographic)

Shoplifting, empty shops, and £85m worse off, welcome to The Beacon.

The dream of fashionable shops, a cinema, and trendy restaurants were promised for the residents of Eastbourne but the last few months have been far from a fairy-tale.

After a nine and a half year wait, Eastbourne has finally been treated to the new extension of the previously named Arndale Centre.

In the first full month since the opening of the extension (in January 2019), there were 42 cases of shoplifting in The Beacon according to the online police crime map.

That is almost three times as many cases as the month before and more than double the monthly rate from 2018.

The 42 incidences of shoplifting is the highest number recorded at The Beacon from the data available on the police crime map dating back three years to February 2016.

But why has the new building led to such a huge jump in shoplifting cases?

For Westgate, a shopping centre in the heart of Oxford, the number of shopliftings dropped significantly after their renovation and extension was completed back in 2017.

Although Fiona Munro, a local Sussex Police sergeant, said: “The opening of the new centre and more desirable stores such as Jack Wills and H&M naturally draws in more people. This occurred when Priory Meadow opened in Hastings. ”

After several attempts to get in touch with The Beacon, I received an email from Adam Godden who is the Specialist Advisor for Business Crime and also manages the Eastbourne Business Crime Group.

Mr. Godden said in his email which included The Beacon’s own crime statistics: “As you can see from these returns it shows there is a reduction in these specific crime types (shoplifting and theft) and nothing that supports your statement (that there has been an increase in these crimes).”

It was interesting that Mr. Godden said this as from the data he sent me the highest monthly number of thefts from a store happened in January 2019, The Beacon’s first full month following its opening.

Also, from the data which spanned from April 2017 to March 2019 the biggest jump in the crime from the same month of the previous year was in January 2019 with 91 cases, 15 more than last year.

So this new data indicates a jump in the crime despite the shopping centre denying the rise, which was pointed out to Mr. Godden.

Sergeant Munro said: “I do believe that there has been a slight spike but not as much as I anticipated.”

When asked if he had noticed an increase in shoplifting Steven White, who works as security for Primark in The Beacon, said: “Yeah, a little bit. I think they are trying all the new shops at the other end (of The Beacon). They have not tried them yet and the staff there might not know them (as notorious shoplifters).”

Mr. White continued to say: “Most of it is down to the shops. Each individual shop has its own team so the security in those shops is not up to scratch. The Arndale won’t help them. It could be that the new shops haven’t bothered with getting their guards yet.”

The local security guard also called for the police to help, he said: “A crackdown by the police (would help) but the police haven’t got the manpower to do it.

“We work alongside the police. They think that anything under a certain value isn’t worthwhile to them attending. We can call them but most of the time they don’t bother (helping) unless it is a prolific shoplifter.”

Upon further inquiry, Mr. Godden said the spike could have been down to two serial shoplifters who had recently been arrested.

In terms of another explanation, Mr. Godden who originally denied the increase in the crime said: “With new stores they will naturally attract an interest and in turn, offending will spike.

“What The Beacon, I, and the Sussex Business wardens have done since the opening prior to January is get some of the stores onto the Shopwatch scheme and educate the stores through the use of a secure intelligence website.”

The Shopwatch scheme is a programme to bring retailers together to tackle the issue of shoplifting and theft.

Mr. Godden continued: “In addition, I have done security reviews on the larger stores ensuring they have optimum camera coverage CCTV systems operating accordingly and that they have a process in place in reporting incidents or dealing with offenders.”

An interesting point Mr. Godden mentioned in his second email was that high-quality CCTV was not in place during the time of the spike in shoplifting, he said: “There is now HD quality CCTV, on opening this wasn’t in place which reduced capabilities.”

This could potentially be a reason why businesses were hesitant to join the extension when it was first opened.

Sergeant Munro said: “We did consider a rise in crime and from the beginning we were involved in requesting better CCTV inside and out ensuring that stores were members of Shopwatch so that up-to-date information is passed quickly.”

In terms of other solutions Sergeant Munro said: “(We are) assisting the Eastbourne Crime Group and business wardens with security reviews in the centre and working with security to ensure they are equipped with skills that they may require.”

In terms of the CCTV Mr. Godden said: “This was an issue with the development rather than any fault of the management team. There is also a new working pattern for the security to optimise coverage with new opening hours being slowly introduced for the upper level.”

Besides from the shoplifting The Beacon has also been questioned over empty shop units and the promise of Wagamama who claim there was never a plan to move into the shopping centre.

Mr. White, said: “I don’t think it was (a good investment) to be honest.”

It appears that the lack of high-quality CCTV when The Beacon first opened may have played a part in the increase in shoplifting.

It appears that the trend is unlikely to carry on as The Beacon along with the local police continue to tackle the shopping centre’s security problems.

The local council were contacted but did not reply.

Leave a Comment