A UNIQUE crime-busting partnership has just been launched between the UK's leading high street supermarket and one of England's biggest police forces.

Crime prevention packs are to be handed out along with customer's groceries by home delivery drivers at Somerfield Stores in a project believed to be the first of its kind.

The national retailer, which has one of the largest fleet of home delivery vans in the country is looking at plans to possibly roll the scheme out nationwide.

Avon and Somerset police joined forces with Somerfield in the summer in a pilot project to crack down on crime.

Already the crime prevention delivery service has won praise for reducing distraction burglaries in one of England's smallest cities, Wells in Somerset, and as a result other towns are to benefit.

Inspector David Harries of Wells police explained: "I can guarantee the packs have already prevented some elderly people from being victims of crime.

"With the help of local Neighbourhood Watch, we compiled a crime prevention pack particularly with elderly residents in mind.

"Sadly distraction burglaries are on the increase where a number of youngsters have been seen posing as charity collectors door-stepping the elderly, or asking if they can come into the house to use the toilet."

He added: "Because Somerfield is a high street retailer and is very much neighbourhood based, we approached them to see if we could work together to distribute these packs to people who use the store's home delivery service."

The idea was born during a conversation between one of the home beat officers in Wells, Constable Andy Leefe and home delivery driver, Don Whitlock from the store, who both felt more could be done to provide the elderly with advice on personal safety and home protection.

The drivers from Somerfield will be on hand to distribute the packs in the Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Street areas, where practical information on protecting the home, personal safety and help and advice on reducing crime will be covered.

Ian Roope, Somerfield's retail development controller, said: "As a neighbourhood retailer with the majority of our stores based on the high street, we are a lot more in touch with the community than our out-of-town competitors.

"We are pleased to provide our home delivery service to help in any way we can to reduce crime. Every week we deliver groceries to hundreds of homes. Our drivers meet and talk to their customers on a regular basis and they have become a familiar face in the neighbourhood for many years.

"Our home delivery service is used by a high proportion of elderly people and if Somerfield can help serve the community through an initiative like this then we are sure that together everyone can benefit - everyone except the criminals."

Note to Editors:
  • The latest figures available from Avon and Somerset Police on distraction burglaries show the majority of crimes committed are against the elderly - of which 70 per cent are women.

  • Between April 99 to March 2000, 427 distraction burglaries were committed within the force area -

  • Of which 85 per cent of victims are aged 70 and above.
For further information please contact Alison Birkett in the Somerfield press office on 0117 9357281