THE weaknesses and strengths of many of Falmouth’s town centre shops were highlighted during a police operation last week which saw officers in plain clothes taking the role of shoplifters.

The crime-fighting initiative aimed to educate shop staff on what to look for in a thief, how to handle them and how to pass on information to other stores and the police using the Shopwatch radios.

Staff underwent a day of training with police officers last week before they were put to the test. Casually dressed, officers entered many of the town’s shops over the next two days and effectively became shoplifters, acting suspiciously.

While some stores were quick off the mark and soon identified the would-be thieves, others were not as vigilant and the officers were able to “steal” fairly substantial quantities of goods before revealing their identities.

The initiative was the latest to come out of Falmouth police station. Sergeant Chris Miles said: “We have a rolling operation to tackle various types of crime – vehicle crime, burglaries and so on.

“At the moment we are looking at shoplifting, not because it is a particular problem but it’s just something we want to keep on top of.

“Every store has its strong points and its weak points. It’s a learning process for the shops and for us as well to develop the best practices. Falmouth is well protected because we have CCTV that goes throughout the main streets and that coupled with the stores’ own CCTV and the radios means we can trace offenders and get images of them.

“Things are improving which means that if someone goes into a shop and tries to steal something, they are deterred, their description is passed on and the offender finds themselves turned away from every shop before they can even get in.”

PCSO Sean McDonnell added: “We are trying to encourage collaborative working between the police and the shops and for the shops to work alongside each other. That way we have eyes and ears everywhere.

“We identified through crime figures the stores that have been targeted the most since Christmas and we have concentrated on them.”

One store that has welcomed the police initiative is Wilkinsons whose manager, Andy Perry said: “The support we get from the police in Falmouth is fantastic. I have worked in stores up and down the country and this is probably the best support I have seen. We report a lot of crime and the support we get is superb. We have seen a lot of arrests on the back of it and a lot of civil recovery coming back to us. We have a good CCTV system, but we know we have work to do in store and some operational changes to make.”