BUSINESSES in Witham are being encouraged to sign up to a new online messaging service following a spate of incidents in the town.

The Witham Chamber of Commerce is encouraging shop owners around the town centre to join a WhatsApp group so they can alert each other to any suspicious activity.

The messaging system will not be open to the public and any businesses signing up are assured all aspects of the chat will remain private.

Chamber of commerce chairman Tina Townsend said: “We’ve set up a WhatsApp group for businesses to share incidents in town, not for the general public but as a way of highlighting issues quickly.

“This is in light of events that happened recently when two, potentially but not definitely connected, issues occurred in the town - one being an attempted shoplifting and the other an opportunist theft from an elderly lady’s car and a fraud that was stopped.”

Mrs Townsend says the WhatsApp group will be similar to the Braintree Against Retail and Business Crime group, which was set up in 2005 to allow business owners to work with Braintree Council and Essex Police to prevent crime in the town centre.

Mrs Townsend added: “We can’t guarantee the WhatsApp group will stop these sorts of incidents but being forewarned quickly may make a difference. We want to get as many businesses as possible on board.”

Those interested in signing up to the scheme are asked to contact the chamber on 0844 588 9631.