Essex: MP critical of police response to crimes against small shops

Priti Patel, MP for Witham

Priti Patel, MP for Witham - Credit: Archant

A “pretty lame and pretty weak” police response to crimes against small shops is putting businesses at risk, an Essex MP has said.

Witham MP Priti Patel, who chairs the parliamentary all-party group on small shops, said shopkeepers have experienced years of crime - with stores being broken into and plagued by antisocial behaviour.

She said: “This kind of behaviour is not acceptable because they are business people and these businesses are being put at risk.

“The police need to do a better job at crime prevention, but at the same time follow up crime.”

“The response of law enforcement agencies is pretty lame and pretty weak. Police are not doing enough. These people are providing a front line service and the police response is not good enough.

“Police are taking up to three or four days to turn up. This has to be looked at much better in terms of support for businesses and the way police engage at local community level with antisocial behaviour.”

Ms Patel, whose father is a former Ipswich grocery store owner, said it was a problem all over the country, including in her constituency.

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She said the Government was not talking about the problem enough and that she would be taking up the issue both locally and nationally in her role as chair of the all-party group.

In the Queen’s Speech earlier this month the Government announced a new piece of legislation to tackle antisocial behaviour and Ms Patel said she would be ensuring that it would also help shopkeepers.

Essex police and crime commissioner Nick Alston agreed that the problem needed to be tackled and said he had made it a priority to have a business crime forum, which is meeting today.

He said: “There is quite a big agenda we need to tackle. The cause of the problem is that the shop keepers haven’t necessarily spoken with a clear voice and police do respond to residents and public concerns more than business concerns. We need to shift that response towards businesses.”

Mr Alston said: “Small shops depend often on very tight margins and so we need to focus on things like shop lifting and criminal damage to shop windows, which can be really annoying and really do affect the shops.

“It is crucially important to tackle this. Our communities thrive on small businesses and small shops. They create employment and economic good.”

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