Radio-paging devices able to receive detailed messages link store detectives in Glasgow and licensees in Sheffield, alerting the 'intelligence communities' of police and traders to a stolen credit card, a group of shoplifters or drunks spoiling for a fight.
Police in Strathclyde and South Yorkshire say the schemes, introduced in the last few weeks, have already established effective early warning systems.
'The beat officer also has a pager, so he also knows what is going on,' a Strathclyde police spokeswoman said. 'If a store gets a stolen credit card, if there are forged notes in circulation, or organised shoplifting in the city centre, a warning and details can be shared quickly.'
Police can also send warning messages through the grapevine. The Strathclyde force also co- ordinates less sophisticated 'pub watch' schemes in Glasgow, Paisley and Hamilton, with information shared by licensees, who pass on data by making two calls each to other pubs.
In Sheffield city centre, nightclubs and pubs have been using the more sophisticated message pagers since last month. Breweries and licensees raised pounds 1,500 for a computer to store information gathered on the grapevine, from which police produce a regular newsletter.