Leighton Buzzard’s united shopkeepers are mobilising to “claim back the town” following the recent crimewave which many have been a victim of.
The business owners have joined forces to set up a new closed Facebook group called “Leighton Buzzard shopwatch community”.
The group already has almost 100 members who are keen to do whatever they can to stem the tide of burglaries and attempted break-ins which, it was confirmed on Friday, has now reached 44.
A Shopwatch group was originally set up offline by the Beds Police and Leighton-Linslade Town Council, but Espresso-Head owner Matt Brown, whose coffee shop was broken into on March 28, told the LBO it had been slow to catch on.
That prompted him to take the idea online, and he has been encouraged by the response.
Matt said: “As a result of the recent crimewave we are experiencing a number of us independent shop owners have united to create a group to share intelligence and fill the gap that the police have with lack of resources to try and help claim back the town.
“The group as of today stands at 96 strong, having only been created two weeks ago, and we are aiming to support each other with knowledge and information, and even with members helping the other traders out with security measures and possible patrols within town.”
The original Shopwatch meeting in December had just seven people turn up, revealed Matt.
He said: “I was one of those. I spoke to people who just didn’t know it existed. With the recent spike in burglaries I felt there was a lot more we could be doing as a group.”
Matt took to Facebook to promote the latest meeting on April 26. He said: “Unfortunately it was during the day, but there was a good 20-30 attendees, which was huge compated to the original seven.
“The Facebook page is a better way for shop owners to communicate among themselves. Before it was small little pockets of traders that spoke to each other. For the photo for the LBO, people who have been here years met people they have never seen before.
“We’ve joined the group together with the original one and there’s a lot more engagement, with people sharing information and knowledge we all have to improve Leighton Buzzard to the town it should be. Quite a few people have asked for information on alarms, security measures and assistance in setting things up.
“I have also been mapping out all the CCTV cameras in Leighton Buzzard – council owned ones, private ones and members of the group. We can then look at the map and see what cameras are surrounding a shop that may have been targeted and if the cameras could have seen something.
“I think the criminals know they can get away with it, or at least can get in and out before the police are actually here.
“But it does seem the police are taking notice now. Over the last week-and-a-half the police presence has picked up dramatically.”
Matt said that he had been aware of 26 break-ins over the space of five weeks, but added: “The police came in the shop on Friday and told me there had been 44 in total, but didn’t say over what dates.”
He added that traders were due to receive details of a new private app which would be provided by the police soon, which would further aid their cause.
Bedfordshire Police has previously stated it had upped the police presence in the town centre to deter thieves from striking again.
Inspector Annita Clarke said: “I’d like to reassure business owners that we are taking this incredibly seriously. It is being treated as a priority by both ourselves and the local authority.
“I’d also urge shops to be extra vigilant and ensure that all the usual security measures are in place when leaving the business premises for the day.”