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Shopping trip could keep you as safe as houses as Kent Police opens an interactive store

If you go down to Bluewater today you’re in for a big surprise, as a flat has popped up among the shops.

The interactive home, which has a kitchen, lounge, study and bedroom, has been created by Kent Police, with funding from the shopping centre, to show people how to make their homes safer. As well as working with other agencies – such as Kent Fire and Rescue Service to drum home the importance of alarms – there are gadgets to trick would-be burglars.

They include storage boxes disguised as books and cans of food and a mini light projector which sends out different colours to look like a flickering TV screen, which can be timed to come on and off giving the impression somebody is home. The items can be bought at the flat, via the Crime Prevention Panel at a not-for-profit price.

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Safer Home Experience at Bluewater, officers with Robert Goodman, general manager at Bluewater and PCC Matthew Scott.
Safer Home Experience at Bluewater, officers with Robert Goodman, general manager at Bluewater and PCC Matthew Scott.

Officers will be there to provide advice and a private police office at the back of the premises can be used for visitors to report an offence or to discuss sensitive topics such as domestic abuse.

The house, at Upper Thames Walk near Next and Carphone Warehouse, also has a touch-screen kiosk with crime maps allowing people to see what has been happening in their area, watch videos and report crimes or suspicious activity.

There is also a PlayStation 4 to educate parents and guardians about social networking on video game consoles and how to spot the signs of grooming. The PS4 can also be used by young people during the discussions.

The Safer Home Experience replaces the Safety Store, which has been offering advice to shoppers at the centre since 2010. The scheme was the brainchild of Insp Gary Woodward.

Manger Daniel Rudden said: “We worked together to come up with a concept that could fulfil the massive opportunity we have here at Bluewater. We need something to cater for the 28m people who visit here every year.

“In terms of 21st century policing it needs to be relevant and there’s not been enough out there to engage with people about their own homes. I’ve struggled to find in my research anything like this. There’s been similar temporary ones aimed at students but this has really been designed to have an impact on the family home.

Safer Home Experience at Bluewater. Decoy can.
Safer Home Experience at Bluewater. Decoy can.

“There will be more rooms to come and we will focus on things that come round seasonally. This will be here for as long as we can physically sustain it.”

Police are keen to get more organisations involved and are working alongside other emergency services, community groups and the Kent Association for the Blind.

The cost to implement the Safer Home has been shared between Kent Police and Bluewater, with police contributing £8,500.

For two years the police had been working with the shopping centre in the Safety Store, which began to evolve around seven months ago.

General manager Robert Goodman said: “It’s great because it increases the visibility of the police and it’s a good opportunity for thousands to talk to police or find out more about staying safe in the home.”

Safer Home Experience at Bluewater. Decoy book.
Safer Home Experience at Bluewater. Decoy book.

On an average day, 100,000 people visit the centre.

Chief constable Alan Pughsley said: “This fantastic new facility will help in all respects and give victims of crime and antisocial behaviour another way in which to meet officers, discuss any issues and access our wide range of services.”

Police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott, who lives nearby in Swanley, was a guest at Wednesday’s july 27launch. He said: “This is a really fantastic example of how organisations come together to prevent crime and keep people safe.

“What Bluewater has done in supporting Kent Police and others by providing this facility is excellent. I’m hoping lots of people come through the doors so our volunteers can give advice to people.”

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