By Tanya MacPherson
THE LAKESIDE special police unit gave me an insight into their intriguing job.
Last week (Friday 17th January) I was allowed to accompany the Lakeside police on the beat. The police at Lakeside have a job to keep the shops and shoppers safer, in the midst of doing so they are arresting 7-14 criminals a week!
The police said there is more to their job than just catching shoplifters. They said about 80% of the crimes they are called to are in fact shoplifting incidents however about 10% of the crimes are fraud and the other 10% is generally a mixture of other things.
No criminal is safe with these officers on duty. The Lakeside police have caught people of all ages committing crimes at Lakeside and they come from far and wide.
Despite common misconceptions the police have caught people between the ages of 12 to 70 years old in the past, stealing things from a packet of sweets to hundreds of pounds worth of clothes! But the main age group of which they catch are normally between the aged of 17 and 20.
Some shops are hit worse than others by the shoplifting; these shops tend to be the bigger, busier or more expensive.
There are many punishments the Lakeside police give to these offenders. These can be anything from: neighbourhood resolution (this is when the person is told off by the police, if young their parent is called and they are made to apologize to the shop. These only tend to happen if it is a cheaper item that has been stolen.); Ticket (fine); caution (this is when you are told off by the police and they will put it down on record that you have had a caution as you are only allowed one. these are normally given to first time offenders);
If you are 17+ and the price of what you have stolen is expensive you will probably go to court.
However, despite the amount of the day spent chasing criminals and keeping Lakeside a safer place for everyone, there is a lot of paper work that has to be done during the process of reporting a crime, not only regarding the police but for witnesses as well.
The police also spend time dealing with other issues such as lost children, criminal behaviour (fighting), suspicious packages and hoax calls alongside dealing with nearby traffic accidents!
When I asked the Lakeside police officers they said: “There are different things we would look out for on a day by day basis regarding who to keep an eye on.
“Things like large empty bags would normally catch our eye as these tend to be the perfect bag for the criminals to use whilst sweeping their chosen item off of the shelf.
“We are not trying not to stereo-type the groups but we also try to keep an eye on large groups of loud teenagers. Teens are mainly influenced by peer pressure and this is the reason they have given for their actions”.
Overall there is a lot more to being a police officer than meets the eye and I have had a first-hand opportunity to experience the day to day jobs of a Lakeside officer.