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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 16:25 GMT
Security grants offered to small businesses
Security cameras  can act as a deterrent to crime
Security cameras can act as a deterrent to crime
The government is to help provide security systems to small businesses in Northern Ireland in an attempt to combat violent crime against staff.

The initiative was launched by Northern Ireland's economy and security ministers Sir Reg Empey and Adam Ingram, at Castle Buildings, Belfast, on Tuesday.

Representatives of the business world were told they were to be offered grants to pay for closed circuit security cameras and security alarms.

The initiative is also to include consultation with the police to help business owners assess their vulnerability to crime and also assist the police response to such crime.

It also aims to educate business owners about Banknote Watch, a UK-wide plan to protect cash in transit and teach people how to recognise stained, stolen banknotes.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme Sir Reg said: "Businesses, large and small are too often easy prey for the criminal and literally millions of pounds are lost each year and hundreds of jobs put at risk.

"The threat is real and substantial and has to be faced head-on.

Sir Reg Empey: Threat is "real and substantial"

"You only have to listen to the radio. We hear about shop assistants getting knives held to their throats and people who have being attacked physically.

"Every enterprise in Northern Ireland must become a partner against crime.

"Together, the government, the police, the business and the wider community can take effective action."

Mr Ingram said that shop owners in the province had to deal with paramilitary crime as well robbery by individuals.

He said: "We are in a period of transition. There is still a lot of criminality which is being carried out with violence in the background.

"It makes Northern Ireland a very difficult initiative to police."

Paul Savage, who manages the Woodbourne chemist in west Belfast said it was very frightening when robbers threatened staff at his shop.


He said he had had to deal with everything from shop-lifting to armed robbery.

"In monetary value they haven't taken anything huge, but it is scary when people come in and you don't whether they have knives and what they are going to do.

"You don't know whether they are on edge or under control."

The RUC said that their experience in recent years had shown that criminal activity in Northern Ireland was becoming increasingly sophisticated.

A police spokesman said: "A strategic joined-up approach is required to tackle many of the problems posed."

The small business security grant scheme is due to begin on 9 April.

The closing date for applications is 30 September.

The maximum grant is 1,000. Small business owners will be expected to fund at least 25% of any measures installed.

The government said the scheme is open to businesses with less than 10 employees, as long as they are not night clubs, pornography shops, political offices, community halls, charity shops and religious buildings.

The Northern Ireland Office is funding the scheme with 600,000.

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