Arresting Mall Developments
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
The United Kingdom is considering setting up temporary holding cells for suspects of crime in British stores, supermarkets and shopping centers.
Under the proposal, the Home Office, the government department responsible for internal affairs such as law and order, suggests setting up a national network of “short-term holding facilities” across England and Wales in busy urban areas. The department claims police spend too much time at the station processing low-level offenders (i.e., shoplifters, pickpockets) or checking their identities. Temporary jail cells would help the police work faster in confirming identity and deciding whether to bring charges so that they can get back to catching more hardened criminals as quickly as possible.
Under the proposal, suspects would be locked up for a maximum of four hours in small cells with a clear plastic wall on one side so they can be seen by custody officers. The more controversial part of the proposal calls for an expansion of police powers, including taking fingerprints, photographs and DNA of suspects – regardless of the offense they are suspected of – and storing them in databases.
Although the document only contains recommendations, talks have already started to open the first of these temporary holding cells in the well-known department store, Selfridges, in London’s Oxford Street.
Not everyone likes the idea, even though it does mean enabling the police to be operational again more quickly. Gareth Crossman, policy director of civil rights group, Liberty, told the Guardian, “The government is fast replacing the best traditions of English law with a chilling presumption of guilt.”
Discussion questions: What do you think of the idea of jails in shopping malls? Will shoppers feel safer or intimidated? Do you think American retailers would accept the presence of jail cells on their premises?
Questions ought to be asked about retail and consumer reactions. None of the U.K. press coverage made any mention of what staff and managers felt about turning shopping premises into jails.
- Ground floor perfumery, stationery … and cells – Guardian
- ‘Tesco jails’ and more DNA testing planned – The Times