FROM chasing down shoplifters to passing on crime prevention tips, the retail crime unit are the cops responsible for keeping Basildon businesses safe.

Based at Basildon Police Station, the team was set up in December 2012 to specifically target retail and commercial crime in the Basildon District.

The team of nine police constables and four police community support officers are led by sgt Simon Gray.

I arrive at Basildon Police Station at 10am, but before I have time to sit down Sgt Gray and PC Kevin Bingham have got a job for us – returning some stolen perfume.

As we leave the police station, Sgt Gray explains: “This is quite a good job for us this morning, we are returning some stolen perfume to Debenhams that the Basildon Proactive Team seized from two men yesterday.”

Officers from Basildon’s Proactive Team were driving in Long Riding on Tuesday, March 18 when they spotted two men acting suspiciously.

The pair had boxes of perfume in a carrier bag that they were selling door-to-door.

When the two officers stopped them they found that the perfume was still in its wrapping, complete with price tags.

One of the men ran off but another was arrested and later charged.

Sgt Gray explains that officers from the retail unit tracked down where the perfume, worth about £292, came from by its security labels.

He added: “It’s good when we can link stolen goods back to the store quickly.

“It means that they can get the goods back on to the shelves to be sold – which benefits the wider economy.”

As we arrive at Debenhams we are met by Nicky Mitchell, cosmetics sales manager, and Debenhams store security guard Kelvin Brade.

As Mr Brade signs the paperwork with PC Bingham, Ms Mitchell said: “We have a good security team here who work in close partnership with police.

“Receiving these goods back is really good because it cuts back on our losses and means we can get stock back on the sales floor, and generally just speeds up the process.”

As we walk back through the town centre, Sgt Gray explains that it is important his team gets out to patrol the town as much as possible.

He said: “It’s about us building and maintaining a good relationship with retailers and with their security staff.

“It’s important to me that we have a presence in the town centre and it helps us to get to know some of the town centre’s characters.”

Earlier this month the retail crime unit was handed the Essex Police Award for team of the year, after beating off competition from 18 other teams.

Sgt Gray said: “Wewere recognised for various things, but one of our biggest achievements is that 74.68 per cent of all shoplifting offences in Basildon are detected, which makes us the best performing borough in the county.

“Getting the award was a really proud moment for us and we have the award on the wall in the office.

“I should also say that Echo readers play a really important part in helping us catch shoplifters by getting in touch when they see CCTV images in the paper.”

Our next job for the morning is to arrest a man in Pitsea who is accused of stealing food from the Londis in Vange.

As we head out again I ask him what affect the recession has had on shoplifting.

He said: “We are picking up more shoplifters who haven’t got a criminal record, so maybe they are stealing because of financial pressures.

“However a good proportion of shoplifting is drugs related and we also have a number of what you could describe as career criminals.”

Among the most common items to be stolen are meat and cosmetics – because they can be sold on quickly.

We arrive at a block of flats in Ryedene Place in Pitsea, and I follow Sgt Gray up a stairwell strewn with rubbish and litter.

As we arrive on the second floor we seeaman leant over the balcony that runs along the walkway, smoking a cigarette.

PC Bingham immediately clocks him as our suspect.

He gives himself up without resisting the officers and is arrested for theft and possession of heroin.

Sgt Gray said: “That was lucky, as we have been to this address before to arrest the suspect but he has not been at home.

“That was a really good spot by Kevin.

“He was OK with us. We will take him back to Basildon Police Station now and question him.”