SHOPLIFTING in Marlow looks to be on the slide as police and businesses praise the success of a new scheme introduced the crack down on the crime.

Shopwatch, launched before Christmas by Thames Valley Police and Marlow Town Council, is a town-wide network of radio and CCTV set up to catch thieves and prevent them from escaping with their loot.

A similar scheme operating in High Wycombe has seen considerable success, with early reports also suggesting Marlow has seen a reduction in shoplifting over the busy Christmas period.

Inspector Scott Messenger, Marlow’s top policeman, said: "The initial signs are that it’s going very very well, We’ve got 17 shops and businesses that have signed up to it and there’s a number more who have asked to join.

"It’s expanding as we speak. It’s a little too early to confirm all the facts and figures, but the co-ordinators have been speaking to some of the businesses who have anecdotally reported a fall in shoplifting over the Christmas period.

"Also, they’ve reported a positive increase in police response to the incidents that have taken place because it has been reported live across the airwaves."

Many of Marlow’s biggest shops are already on board with the Shopwatch scheme, including Boots and Waitrose. Simon Mitchell, manager at Waitrose, has praised its introduction.

He said: "It has been really important to get Shopwatch up and running and we have been really pleased with how other retailers have embraced it along with the fantastic support from Marlow Town Council and the local police.

"Waitrose prides itself in helping support the local community in which we trade and for us it is vitally important to provide a safe shopping environment for both customers and partners.

"The advent of Shopwatch has enabled us to share information and make Marlow a safe place to shop for everyone."

The system works by intelligence sharing between shops and businesses, which pass on information and warn others about known offenders or specific incidents of shoplifting.

This information then gets relayed to the police and a central CCTV control centre in High Wycombe so the culprits can be tracked down and arrested.

Insp. Messenger gave the example of a shoplifting incident on January 6, when staff from another store went to assist workers at a town centre shop after a shoplifter struck and was apprehended. Police arrived within minutes of the report being flagged up and an arrest was made at the store.

Insp Messenger said: "The great thing is it’s live rather than in the past when we’ve had to wait for it to be called in which would be done a couple of hours.

"By that time we’d have been left with a crime where the offenders and the property is already gone and we would have to do a reactive investigation, whereas now we get a call when the offender is still on the scene.

"Firstly, you’ve got shops working together, and secondly you’ve got a live feed into us, and arrests can be made straight away, and that just wouldn’t have happened before.

"The shops are very very positive, as are the council, all of whom helped put the project together."