A CRACKDOWN on shop crime has seen police issue traders with “fogging devices” designed to confuse and disorientate raiders.

Officers have arrested 17 people and visited dozens of stores giving traders advice on safety and security as part of an operation aimed at reducing business robberies.

Since the beginning of January, there have been several raids carried out at convenience stores, newsagents and fast-food outlets across the county.

In the majority, the robbers have been armed and have predominantly targeted premises for cash and cigarettes.

Several businesses now have been given fogging devices - which can be set off by shopkeepers to disorientate raiders - and trackers, put in items so they can be traced if they are stolen.

They have also been given forensic sprays to security mark stock.

These patrols were complemented by plain-clothes officers across the area.

During the operation there were 17 arrests: 12 people were held on suspicion of possessing class A and B drugs, one was arrested for being wanted on warrant, two on suspicion of possessing ammunition and two suspicion of possession with intent to supply cocaine.

Three premises were also searched and seven vehicles were seized for various offences as part of the operation.

Chief Inspector Jenny Sims said: "These incidents have been extremely distressing for the staff members and customers involved and we recognise the serious impact robberies can have, especially for small businesses.

"These businesses provide vital service to the community so preventing these crimes is in everyone's interest.

“We will not tolerate these offenders who cause fear in the community and are targeting people who are trying to make a living."

She continued: "We will do everything within our power to prevent and deter this type of crime and arrest those responsible.

"I hope the action taken by the force this week helps to reassure local businesses that we are working hard to trace those responsible for these offences and bring them to justice.

"I'm sure the community of Merseyside would agree that the people responsible for these incidents should be brought to justice.”

Anyone with information that could help police should telephone the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.