Crawley and Gatwick Business Watch has transformed the way it operates and records its activities over the last six months to achieve National Standards Accreditation from Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (Police CPI), a police-owned organisation that works alongside the Police Service to reduce crime and build safer communities.
The mastermind behind the Business Crime Reduction Partnership’s overhaul is its Manager, Paul Dowling, who took up his post in January 2021 after his management role with Boeing Corporation where his responsibilities included looking after international trip planning and vendor relations. Paul knows the Crawley and Gatwick area well as a Special Constable with Sussex Police for more than 12 years and was singled out by the force for a personal profile during the National Specials Weekend on 5-6 June.
Crawley and Gatwick Business Watch (CGBW) has 160 members and operates alongside three key organisations – Shop Watch, Pub Watch and Business Watch. These businesses include shops, pubs and clubs as well as other businesses in the town centre and industrial sites within its boundaries.
In the short time in his role, Paul has: compiled new key documents covering practices, processes and governance and arranged for them to be moved to a Cloud-based system after initially locating them onto a secured password protected Drop Box; resumed a programme of briefings with local businesses as they reopen after COVID-19 lockdown with the next meeting of Pub Watch on 29 June and Shop Watch to restart once all restrictions are lifted; initiated and launched a complete rebuild of the CGBW website to replace its predecessor, which had been in existence for 13 years; prepared a survey to seek members’ views on the scheme and what they want it to include – which is due to be circulated in July when it is hoped all businesses would have fully reopened.
CGBW, which is based in the centre of Crawley, seeks to reduce and prevent criminality and anti-social behaviour by reducing the opportunity to commit crime.
The scheme’s radio system can be accessed by participating member businesses and the CCTV control room in the area’s main shopping centre – County Mall. The County Mall control room can view all the Mall’s entry and exit points, including an adjoining park. Local Sussex PCSOs assigned to Crawley Town Centre carry the partnership radio whilst on duty and voice traffic is monitored in the Neighbourhood Policing Teams’ Office at other times.
Virtually every day, Paul updates the DISC system, which is a unique information sharing system for BCRPs to deliver news and alerts to members about low level crimes and anti-social behaviour.
During 2020 and all the turbulent COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, which had a huge impact on businesses around the UK, CGBW effectively ran itself after its previous business manager Karen Methven became seriously ill in September 2019. Sadly, Karen never returned to work and passed away early in 2021. On taking up his post, Paul had to work to replicate processes, documents, emails and the wealth of knowledge that Karen had acquired over her 17-year period of management, which was lost with her passing.
Paul said: “We had to rebuild the scheme from scratch. It’s been a task and a half to get where we are. I would love to celebrate our national accreditation as a tribute to the foundations that Karen built and for our loyal and supportive member businesses and partner organisations who we are committed to working closely with to help our local communities become safer and more secure.”
The national assessment undertaken by Sarah Bird, of National Business Crime Solution, recognised that CGBW has been through a period of significant change in relation to personnel, operation process and stakeholder engagement.
“Although some elements of the service were not covered for some time in 2020, the network continued to deliver on the core intelligence, sharing service through dedicated member interaction and support from external partners.
“This partnership has made an excellent effort in the past six months to bring the partnership back to a fully operated and successful business crime reduction operation. They have made some positive changes to allow for changing member needs and improved business continuity by putting in place more robust processes and systems,” she stated.
A former member of Karen’s team, Simon Cuckow, County Mall Centre Manager, paid tribute to Karen’s work with CGBW: “Karen was the Business Watch Manager for Crawley Gatwick Business Watch for 17 years. Karen dedicated her time to establishing and working with the local businesses to improve Crawley Town Centre, whilst building relationships with the key stakeholders in the council and the local police force.
“Karen gained the first accreditation for the scheme and later went on to be an assessor for other business watches in the South East and always took pride in her role and will always be remembered for her commitment and dedication to the scheme by the members,” Simon said.
Guy Collyer, who manages BCRP accreditation for PCPI, added: “May I offer my sincere congratulations to Crawley and Gatwick Business Watch for passing their recent assessment to become an accredited BCRP. Their success is a testament to the legacy left by Karen.”