As part of its current focus on Business Crime the Police Service of Northern Ireland is highlighting the work done by its ANPR Interceptor team, in collaboration with partners in the business sector, to tackle shoplifting gangs.

The ANPR Interceptor team was formed in 2020 to deny criminals the use of Northern Ireland’s road network.  ANPR stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition. Inspector Michael Barton who is in charge of the team said: “Our high performance vehicles contain technology which allows our officers to detect vehicles which are suspected of involvement in crime. Our specialist training means that we can stop those vehicles in a manner which keeps everyone safe.”

While the Interceptor team carries out significant work against stolen vehicles and drug gangs, it has also had significant recent success against organised shoplifting gangs operating across Northern Ireland (NI). Some of these gangs travel across NI, Ireland and GB specifically to carry out high value thefts from retail outlets, sometimes targeting multiple stores on the same day.

Inspector Barton added: “On a number of recent occasions, working with local policing teams and acting on information provided by retailers, we have stopped vehicles suspected of involvement in major retail thefts. Items stolen include high value electronic items and printer ink cartridges creating a loss of thousands of pounds for local retailers.  The individuals involved have all been brought before the courts and their vehicles seized”. 

Maxine Fraser from Retailers Against Crime – a not for profit Crime Partnership – said: “We work with retailers and Police across NI, Scotland and Northern England sharing information about local and travelling offenders. Organised, highly mobile shoplifting gangs involved in bulk thefts are very much a national and cross border problem.

“I am aware that the Police Service of Northern Ireland, through its Interceptor teams, have disrupted at least four such gangs in recent months recovering thousands of pounds of stolen goods. This exceptional work has undoubtedly prevented further offences across the country and demonstrates the value of retailers reporting suspected incidents to police as quickly as possible.”

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones, the Service’s Business Crime lead, appealed for retailers to work with police, he said: “This week the PSNI is taking part in a national week of action against business crime. All week officers and staff will be out engaging with retailers providing advice and guidance and encouraging them to share information and report crimes to us.

“There is a perception in some areas that there is little the police can do about shoplifting. I want to assure people that is not the case and urge them to report all crime to us. Your report might be the final piece of the puzzle that allows us to apprehend these criminals, bring them before the courts and return your stock.”