More than 100 businesses across East Cambridgeshire have now signed up to the East Cambs Community Safety Partnership’s Shop Watch scheme.

Similar to Neighbourhood Watch, Shop Watch operates via WhatsApp and allows businesses to effectively communicate with each other to help tackle shoplifting and anti-social behaviour.

It is being organised by East Cambridgeshire Community Safety Partnership (CSP) which brings together representatives from the police, Federation of Small Businesses and East Cambridgeshire District Council, as well as other organisations working together to protect the local community from crime and help people feel safe.

To date 87 businesses in Ely, 18 in Littleport and 7 in Soham have signed up, and all businesses at Ben’s Yard, near Stuntney have received information packs and set up their own WhatsApp chat group.

Members of the East Cambs Community Safety partnership are now looking to expand numbers and will be in contact with businesses in Fordham and Isleham over the next couple of weeks.

Lis Every, Chair of the East Cambs CSP, said: “We’ve been delighted with the phenomenal support we have received from East Cambridgeshire businesses for the scheme.

“It goes without saying the more retail organisations that sign up, the more effective the scheme is at preventing shoplifters, burglaries and anti-social behaviour.”

Figures reveal there was a significant rise in the number of shoplifting crimes recorded in Cambridgeshire last year.

Cambridgeshire Police’s Crime and Priorities data for the last year shows there were 290 shoplifting offences in East Cambridgeshire between February 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024.

Meanwhile, figures from the Office for National Statistics show 5,306 shoplifting offences were recorded by the force in the year to June – up from 3,776 in 2022.

Reports of shoplifting across England and Wales increased 25% from 293,000 offences in 2021-22 to 365,200 last year.