There is an old adage: ‘When all is said and done, there is more said than done.’ This is the antithesis of the driving mantra behind ORIS Forums since the earliest days. When the ORIS Retail Loss Prevention Fashion Forum – the first of what are now 11 sector, function and territory-specific Forums – set out its stall in February 2006, it made the pledge that as a collaborative body it would be action led and not ‘another talking shop.’
And 2015 has proved to be another year of action for ORIS Forums. The Fashion Forum which has extensively lobbied bodies as diverse at the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Metropolitan Police, the Sentencing Council, The Magistrates Association and Ebay, to name but a few, has forged closer relationships with the National Association of Business Crime Partnerships and has targeted two specific cities where members’ shrink levels have been high.
At a Fashion Forum meeting in October 2014, members reported that Cardiff and Liverpool were recording higher loss rates than any other comparable cities, figures that prompted action in the form of establishing meetings with the Police and crime partnerships. In May 2015, chair and vice chair Colin Culleton and Tim Edwards held a meeting with the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce Crime Reduction manager Tony Jopson and Supt Jenny Sims of Merseyside Police who has a task force concentrating on business crime.
The outcome of the meeting was a pledge by all parties to make city centre crime public enemy number one and for Forum members to monitor stock loss in their stores and report back on improvements or deterioration. The Police were to take crime ‘feeds’ from the Chamber and to look at a temporary addition to office resource in some of the city’s main shopping areas.
In late May, members of Cardiff Business Safe attended the Fashion Forum meeting held in Cardiff to hear evidence of targeted theft against stores. Again, all parties agreed to work together on joint solutions.
Fashion Forum Chair Colin Culleton said: “I joined the Forum because I know my business benefits from having a network of like-minded professionals who have to answer difficult questions when loss figures in certain parts of the country are higher than they should be. Together, we look for answers to the questions and solutions that will help our respective businesses and those centres as a whole. “I feel confident that if we can deliver the agreed actions and sustain the focus on these cities, then both opportunist and organised retail crime will reduce”
Lobbying has also been central to activity for the Irish Loss Prevention Forum which has achieved what no other business organisation has yet been able to do – extract an understanding from the Data Commissioner about data sharing.
Although the Data Protection legislation is a European directive, the interpretation in Ireland is that it is too strict in that it is seen to actively prevent retailers from sharing images of persistent store thieves – those known to them and the Gardi.
The meeting at the Data Commissioners Office in Portarlington near Dublin provided the Forum with the understanding that such data sharing can be permissible if managed with the Gardi and in compliance with the caveats contained in the Data Protection Act.
A subsequent meeting has been held with the Gardi and the Forum is now involved in drawing up a strategy document to be shared with the Garda’s Coordination and Tasking Unit (CTU).
Also in Ireland, the chair of the Forum Noel Hennessy, head of business controls at Arnotts, has written to the Ministry of Justice asking for the proposed new powers and sentencing for persistent burglars to be extended to commercial and retail properties because of the known shop thieves who are arrested, bailed and back in the stores stealing straight after leaving court.
Further action will be taken with regard to this matter as the Forum is now replying to a response from the Minister’s office that suggests retail burglary should not be afforded the additional sanctions.
Noel Hennessy said this week: “This is still a work in progress, but action does speak louder than words and whereas it is great to share information and collaborate, there needs to be a stronger voice for retail that is backed by deeds that support our cause and protect our people, property and profits. At present, there is a perception that the law affords better protection for those who break it, rather than those who try and uphold it.