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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 16:21 GMT
Prints scheme given thumbs-up
Fingerprint
Police will be able to trace offenders by using their print
An anti-fraud scheme which asks shoppers in a south Wales town to give their thumbprint when using a cheque card is being hailed a success and could be extended.

Around 170 shops and hotels in Merthyr Tydfil joined the scheme in the run-up to Christmas.

Police claim that the initiative has led to an 87% reduction in cheque card crime in the town.

It is working here and shows other divisions we can push it across the region as best practice.

Merthyr Crime Reduction Officer PC Richie Gardener

But civil rights campaigners fear that the initiative has simply encouraged fraudsters to concentrate on nearby towns.

Under the scheme, people paying for items mark the back of the cheques and credit card receipts with their thumb print using a special stain-free ink.

Payments are then processed in the normal way, but if the card or cheque is found to be stolen the marked slip will be sent to the police.

Officers then have a thumbprint with which to trace the offender.

Merthyr Crime Reduction Officer PC Richie Gardener said that even if it had shifted crime, fraudsters were now operating in less familiar surroundings making life more difficult for them.

PC Richie Gardener
PC Gardener shows how to give a thumbprint

He added: "On top of that it gives the victim a greater chance to cancel the card and report it missing.

"It is working here (in Merthyr) and shows other divisions we can push it across the region as best practice."

Mark Littlewood, director of campaigns for the civil rights pressure group Liberty, said it was possible criminals had now turned their attention to other communities.

"Any statistics that show crime has fallen need to be looked at very carefully and with a degree of suspicion,'' he said.

"Any audit of such a scheme needs to look at crime displacement."

Justified

Just one shopper has so far has objected to the police about the scheme.

Bernard Morrissey, manager of the St Tydfil┐s Shopping Centre, said the reduction in card crime had justified police moves to introduce it.

He said: "There was a guarded enthusiasm from some of the tenants to try it.

"The majority of the tenants who accept cheques and credit cards have joined the scheme.

"The scheme itself seems quite simple to operate and I have not heard of any objections to it."


More from south east Wales
See also:

19 Nov 02 | Wales
24 Sep 02 | England
25 Jul 02 | Wales
05 Aug 01 | Business
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