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DPACCriminals are not welcome in Dover.

That's the strong message from the Dover Partnership Against Crime - one of the most successful groups of its kind in the country - which involves traders, business people, police and the local authority in preventing offences from being committed in the town.

Set up more than 10 years ago, DPAC now covers Dover, Deal and Sandwich, and has more than 150 members, including retailers, licensees, taxi companies, transport firms and local attractions. We employ a co-ordinator, Karen Griffiths, who is based at Dover police station.

Each member has a two-way radio which enables them to communicate with each other, the police and the CCTV control room, tracking criminals, deterring them from committing offences and catching them if they do.

There have been dozens of examples of successful arrests involving DPAC members when criminals have stolen from local shops.

» A woman who carried out a series of jewellery thefts from one store was arrested by plain clothes police officers who, working with five members of DPAC and the CCTV operators, tracked her through the town centre to one of the back streets where she thought she was out of sight.

» A man who snatched cash from a till at a newsagent's found himself being pursued by 10 DPAC members until police arrived to arrest him.

» A man suspected of possessing drugs thought he might get away with it if he dropped the drugs out of sight of the police. But he was seen by a DPAC member, arrested and charged.

» Two women who snatched hundreds of pounds worth of clothing from a store climbed up hills and over railings, and then hid in the doorway of flats, as a police patrol approached, in a bid to escape. But they had been followed and watched by a DPAC member who stopped the police officer, and they were arrested.

» A man was arrested in the town centre after he twice walked out with two DVD players from a superstore. The first time he disappeared. But the second time staff at the store were able to get the DVD players off him before he ran off. He evaded police officers who were in the area, but a DPAC member remembered his description and recognised him walking down the main street some time later.

And the fact that criminals are likely to be caught in Dover is certainly becoming well-known in other parts of the area. One thief who was caught stealing a jacket from a clothes shop told officers who arrested him: "They say it's not worth committing crime in Dover - and they're right."

Prolific offenders are issued with DPAC Exclusion Orders banning them from DPAC members' premises for 12 months. One way in which the success of DPAC is measured is the fact that a couple of years ago about 30 people had exclusion orders. Now there are just six. Others have either changed their behaviour - we have been pleased to see some criminals turning over a new leaf - or they have moved away from the town.

But we are not complacent. We continue to be vigilant, and target anyone - young or old - who commits crime in the town. And we encourage those who are stealing to fund a drug habit to seek help at the Kent Council for Addiction centre in Dover.

And it's not just thieves that members look out for. DPAC has helped cut down on anti-social behaviour in the town, as well as helping to find lost children, reunite owners with lost bags, purses and keys, and even help motorists who have forgotten where they have parked their cars!

Safer Business AwardIn March 2002, DPAC was presented with the Home Office Safer Shopping Award, becoming the first town in Kent to achieve the stringent criteria laid down for this award. This was renewed in 2005 with the Safer Business Award, presented by Michael Schuck of Action Against Business Crime. At the same time, we also gained the Safer Socialising Award, and appointed another co-ordinator to work with the licensees of pubs, clubs, restaurants and off-licences to encourage them to gain their own individual awards. The first awards are due to be presented very soon.

Safer Socialising AwardOur members are also involved in the Three Strikes scheme which is being pioneered in Dover to tackle anti-social drinking. Yellow cards are issued to offenders after their first drinking offence, with a warning about what will happen if they offend again. After a second offence, a red card is issued and they are banned from licensed premises in the scheme for six months. A third offence will result in an anti-social behaviour order being applied for, and a ban from all licensed premises for at least two years. Less then two weeks after the scheme was launched, the first red card was issued to a 17-year-old boy who wasn't old enough to be drinking legally anyway!

In conjunction with Dover District Council, DPAC has also put together a PowerPoint presentation for schools to inform pupils what will happen to them if they become involved in crime in the town. It is hoped this will make them think twice about offending.

DPAC and its partners are making a significant difference to Dover, and we would welcome more traders, pubs, clubs and other businesses joining us.

More information is available from DPAC Co-ordinator Karen Griffiths on 01304 218172.
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