CUT-OUT policemen and posters with staring eyes are making an impact on cutting shoplifting in Rayleigh, a senior police officer says.

Rochford Chief Insp Ian Cummings, based at Rayleigh police station, said the force faced a surge in shoplifting in the time after the Christmas period, but this had been brought under control after being made a priority.

He said this was largely due to working with traders to make them aware of what are easy targets, how to confront potential shoplifters and giving them cardboard cut-outs of policemen.

He said: “We’ve been out speaking to traders about what they can do to keep shoplifting down. We are facing some heavy cuts to the budget in April so it’s no longer a case of a trader reporting an offence, we investigate it, and that’s the extent of their involvement.

“One of the things that has been very successful has been the cut-out policemen and the posters with a pair of eyes with ‘we’re watching you’ written on them. The psychology of them is very effective and some of the traders who were initially sceptical have since asked us for some and some have even printed their own.”

Carl Watson, chairman of the Rayleigh Chamber of Trade, said members Macro and Martins newsagents had used the cut-outs and had been “very happy” with them.

Chairman of Hockley’s Chamber of Trade, Jeff Stanton, of radio and TV shop Waters and Stanton, has also used the cut-outs. He said: “People comment on them and they do catch your eye. We’ve not had much of a problem with shoplifting in Hockley lately so they must, psychologically, make you think ‘oops, be careful’.”

It seems they are not just popular with traders however, with one stolen from a shop in Westcliff in October and another from a shop on Canvey in August.

The thefts came to light after a Freedom of Information request made to Essex Police regarding property stolen from the force in the last two years.