SHOPKEEPERS in a quiet town frightened by a recent spate of robberies and burglaries have ‘taken back control’ through a new collective scheme that targets criminals.

Denbigh Shop Watch, a scheme that enables the communication and sharing of information on misbehaviour between shopkeepers and the banning of offenders has been joined by more than 45 businesses after three months in operation.

The scheme, which works in conjunction with Denbigh Business Group and North Wales Police, was started by Wendy Evans, customer assistant at the Co-op in Denbigh who decided that action needed to be taken after a spate of crimes at commercial properties in the town between Christmas and Easter, including thefts at the Co-op, Daisy’s Milk Parlour and McColls, and robberies at HSBC and Denbigh petrol station.

Ms Evans had tried several times to get the scheme off the ground as she was aware of the its benefits, having already chaired the Denbigh Pub Watch, but she has been overwhelmed by the success of the shop scheme.

Ms Evans said: “There is so much positivity now; it feels like we have taken back the town.

“The scheme has gone from strength to strength and businesses are signing up at will.

“It’s a surprise this has been so successful, but I think it was music to many peoples’ ears.

“We have a no-nonsense attitude: we are not putting up with theft or anti-social behaviour anymore.

“The more businesses get on board, the stronger we get. We’re becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“Those who misbehave don’t want to be on the list as they know it will be such an inconvenience, so it is a successful deterrent.”

The police’s support, in the form of expert advice from Inspector Andy Kirkham, and PCSOs Kelly Elliot and Lucy Green, has involved the provision of experience and keeping members informed about incidents in the town that might pose a risk to shops’ safety.

Insp Kirkham has said: “I have been involved in similar schemes in Rhyl and Colwyn Bay which were a success, and I intend to bring my experience from those schemes to Denbigh.

“The police offer their support to the scheme by assisting with setting up the infrastructure and giving advice based on similar schemes that have worked elsewhere.

“We can’t go out and give forms to offenders before they commit an offence but this will stop repeat offenders and deter people from committing offences as they will not want to be banned from every shop in the town.”

A number of people are already on the list but cannot be named for data protection purposes.

Increased CCTV surveillance and radio communication between shops and North Wales Police has been put forward as a future development to buttress the scheme.

Peter Jones, chair of Denbigh Business Group: “The scheme started after business owners were upset about the violent crimes and minor thefts taking place in the town.

“Around that time you were dreading a phone call in the middle of the night to say your business is next; it’s not what you expect from a small town.

“The scheme has really taken off, with the help of the police who have been very supportive.

“The scheme has been very proactive and the majority of businesses have signed up or are in the process of doing so.”

Annie Bryan, owner of Denbigh Chocolate Shop, said: “The scheme is absolutely brilliant. All the shops are united.

“The chocolate shop was one of the lucky ones, but that is why the scheme started: enough is enough and we’re all standing together.”

Ben Jones, dispensary assistant at Cohen’s Chemists, said: “The scheme has given everyone an ease of mind.

“The police can only do so much and criminals think they can get away with it, but the shop watch has helped us take control and I feel like we have a grip over the situation.”

Mark Young, Lead Member for Corporate Standards for Denbighshire County Council, which involves the responsibility for community safety said: “There are problems with businesses worrying about break-ins; it is both stressful and costly.

“I fully endorse the shop watch scheme. Anything that makes businesses more at ease is great for them and the town.

“It is very important that businesses feel safe and that is more likely to happen in partnership.”