A THIEF responsible for a recent spate of shoplifting from shops in Malvern, Worcester and Upton-upon-Severn has been imprisoned for 16 weeks.

Wesley Furber, aged 38, of Prospect Close, Malvern pleaded guilty at Worcester Magistrates Court to 20 offences committed between June and September.

This case was the first in Malvern where police and shop owners have worked together using the Facewatch scheme to both identify offenders and share information to prevent crime.

Facewatch is a community led project that allows businesses to share information on possible troublemakers and low-level criminals in a discrete and timely way.

Images of Furber were posted on Facewatch, in a gallery of people suspected of stealing from shops.

Within a short period of time the other retailers on the local group were aware of his activities and the methods and tactics he was using.

It also showed the type of clothing he wore.

Stores that had not been aware of offences then checked their own CCTV and found Furber in the store and were able to view him taking items from the shelves, concealing them in his backpack and then leaving the store.

Facewatch allows information to be shared in an instant so members can forewarn other town centre colleagues, and the police, about potential causes for concern in an instant.

The website can be used to alert local retailers that a local well-known thief is in the area all with the click of a button.

The system is driven by the retailers themselves and allows staff to upload still photographs and video footage of suspects onto the database, record crime reports and even write their own statements.

PC Paul Lambon of West Mercia Police said: "This is a good result.

"The overwhelming evidence did not leave the individual with any choice when he got to court but to plead guilty.

"Without a doubt, Facewatch and the support of the local retailers was the greatest factor in bringing this man before the court and achieving the result.

"If any retailer is in two minds as to the effectiveness of the system then they can see, from this case, just how good it is.

"I highly recommend retailers to sign up as soon as possible.

"Christmas is one of the busiest periods for thieves and using Facewatch should help both deter them and if not, help catch and convict them".

Anyone interested in getting involved should call PCSO Lisa Freeman at Malvern Police station via the 101 non-emergency number and ask for extension 4393.