Security concerns at St Albans shopping plaza

AN IRATE retailer has hit out at security at the St Albans shopping centre in which his business is based following the theft of a valuable earring dispenser on Tuesday lunchtime.

Colin Mealing, who owns the St Albans branch of Swarovski in Christopher Place, is furious that a CCTV camera positioned outside his premises did not capture an image of the thief.

But the centre manager was quick to defend Christopher Place saying that the revolving CCTV camera installed there was “superb” but had to cover the whole centre of 31 stores, its public places and corridors and was not there just to protect one shop.

The earring dispenser was taken from Swarovski between 1pm and 2pm while Mr Mealing’s wife Catherine was in the shop. She had been aware of a man browsing in the jewellers for some time before the spinner carrying 44 pairs of earrings and worth �2,500 disappeared.

It was not until after Mr Mealing returned to the shop to take over from his wife that he realised the dispenser had gone.

Although the CCTV camera is positioned outside his shop, no pictures of the culprit were captured on film and his only hope now is that CCTV cameras operated by the district council might have an image of the thief outside the centre.

Colin said that after a brick was thrown through his shop window last year, he was told that the centre was no longer part of the council’s CCTV operation and would be outsourced.

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He maintained that the theft this week demonstrated that had not happened and he believes that most retailers in Christopher Place think the centre is still covered by the council operation.

Colin added: “It is the first theft we have had and it is a pretty major disgrace that people can do this and get away with it because there no pictures available.”

Christopher Place centre manager, Catherine Morris, confirmed that it was no longer part of the council CCTV scheme which it had decided not to continue with because of the lack of feedback about what was happening there.

But in its place was a revolving CCTV camera which filmed the whole centre and was in operation at the time of the Swarovski theft although it had not captured the culprit, partly because the time of the theft was vague.

She said the centre also had two security guards working 24/7, was an active member of SABAC – St Albans Businesses Against Crime – and was monitored from every angle even though it has five entrances into it.

But she maintained it was also up to retailers to take responsibility for security on their premises, adding: “He pays a service charge but I have to make sure that all my shops are covered so if he doesn’t protect himself, he can’t expect me to protect him.”