Operation BIRD spreads its wings at Westfield Shopping Centre

National Business Crime Solution (NBCS), a not for profit organisation that enables the sharing of data between law enforcement agencies and the business community in order to reduce crime, is celebrating the success of the very first Business Impact Reduction Day (BIRD) – also known as Operation BIRD – an industry led initiative that is designed to target and manage the effect of business related crime activity.

The initial exercise took place at Westfield shopping centre in London, where 51 security and loss prevention professionals from across the industry joined forces with the police service and retailers to target prolific and persistent offenders. The brainchild of NBCS, Operation BIRD was supported by the Metropolitan Police's Business Crime Hub, National Business Crime Centre, Territorial Support Group, London Borough of Newham and Westfield Stratford City - all of which played a vital role in planning and executing the manoeuvre.

The day began with a full briefing and the identification of persistent offenders, who were to be apprehended in a safe manner with no violence. In addition, a team of 'super-recognisers' from the Metropolitan Police was present to identify any other offenders on the police radar. Officers in this unit have the ability to instantly place a familiar face, a skill that some researchers estimate is present in just one per cent of the population.

Operation BIRD proved to be a remarkable success with 18 detentions and various actions including penalty notices, community resolutions and civil recoveries, as well as a number of arrests and charges. Perhaps the most significant, and unexpected, result of the day concerned the apprehension of a 15 year old female from the north of England, who it transpired was the victim of child sexual exploitation and was being coerced into shoplifting. She is now under the auspices of the child protection authorities and currently in care.

NBCS managing director, Dan Hardy, commented: "The story of how this vulnerable young person came to be shoplifting in Westfield shopping centre was truly shocking. It has brought into sharp focus why safeguarding intervention requires sensitive and considerate handling when dealing with the victims of child sexual exploitation. It has also highlighted the need for security service providers to educate their officers on this subject and implement consistent training. NBCS will be looking to drive this forward with its industry partners, while further Operation BIRD activities will take place around the country in places that NBCS intelligence suggests are crime hotspots."

Detective chief inspector, Georgina Barnard, leader of the National Business Crime Centre, was equally impressed with the results. She concluded: "Operation BIRD has proved what can be achieved when relevant parties join forces to target and prevent the impact of business related crime activity. I applaud NBCS for this initiative and look forward to working on similar activities in the future."

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