Shopkeepers are being urged to trial a new crime-busting radio network – following fears that thieves could target Exmouth.

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Police in the town are backing a system of hand-held radios to help catch shoplifters, find lost children and stop the spread and use of fake money.

It follows the Exmouth Shopwatch meeting between police, traders, town councillors and equipment supplier TTS.

The scheme is already used by the Co-op, Boots and Tony Pryce Sports – and police are keen for the network to be expanded.

They say the more shops that use it, the more effective the network will be.

Although the radios would cost a retailer £250 for a year, this week the town council committed £500 to pay to trial two radios for three months.

Interested shops can ask to trial a radio for a few days free of charge.

Councillor Pauline Stott said: “It is an excellent system and also quite useful for locating lost children. The system means that shops can share information. The police are very keen.”

Officers say the system has been very successful in Exeter, where crime has been reduced – but this often means criminals will gravitate to other towns.

She added: “Police are concerned that shops in Exmouth might become a target [of shoplifters].”

Town clerk Colin Poole said that the radios were powerful and tough, adding: “Shops can try it for three months without a commitment.

“If they find it useful they can then commit, but if they don’t then they have not lost anything.

“All the radios are on a secure frequency and you cannot tune into them from outside the network.

“And if a shop does want in but they can’t afford it, they could band together. The police have radios as well, so they can respond very quickly.”

A police spokesman said: “It has been used successfully to pass on descriptions of undesirable people to other members and has been instrumental in the apprehension of shoplifters and stopping the spread of counterfeit notes.

“It is linked to CCTV, which means that the CCTV can be used to track people reported via Shopwatch, which adds to the weight of evidence being collected.”

The next Shopwatch meeting is pencilled in for 6pm on Wednesday, March 6. Contact the town hall for more details.

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