Cheshire Police & Crime Panel meeting March 2024 (CWAC) (1)

Cheshire Police are using facial recognition technology to track down offenders who threaten shopworkers and target retail stores in the county, writes Belinda Ryan.

Police commissioner John Dwyer said the technology was being used to safeguard retailers against reported crimes.

Responding to a question from police and crime panel member Gemma Shepherd-Etchells about abuse and attacks on retail workers, Mr Dwyer said: “We’re using facial recognition as a historic approach, so it’s not live.

“If an offence is committed, the CCTV will be fed back into the facial recognition database to say who is this – it’s not a case of flagging it up to say that person, right now, is prohibited from being wherever they are.”

He said where retailers were experiencing problems it was important they contacted police as soon as possible.

“As with all calls for service, the response will be assessed using a threat assessment and for most ongoing violent instances the force would look to respond within 15 minutes,” he told the panel.

“Additionally beat officers have been engaging with retail workers and taking a proactive approach to persistent offenders – including utilising criminal behavioural orders (CBO) to prohibit repeat offenders’ movement and restrict their access to targeted retailers.

“If they’ve been served with a CBO they can be arrested should they reappear on those premises, having committed no further offence. The fact they’re there is an offence in itself.”

Mrs Shepherd-Etchells asked the commissioner if he supported calls for extra legal protection for shop workers in England and Wales from attacks of violence while at work.

She said this would be similar to legislation introduced in Scotland in 2021 which created a specific offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker while engaged in their role.

Mr Dwyer replied: “Yes, I do, absolutely. I think it’s a good idea and needs to be done.”

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