In a joint effort to uphold the law and maintain a safe and fair trading environment, partners in Watford have undertaken a series of spot checks on local businesses.
The Community Safety Unit (CSU) stationed at Watford Police Station, Hertfordshire’s Trading Standards (TS) team, and the licensing division at Watford Borough Council have joined forces to ensure that businesses within the town are trading legally and adhering to the conditions of their licences.
The collaborative initiative, which took place between April 1 and June 30 of this year, aimed to assess and enforce compliance with trading regulations as well as the terms of premises licences. A total of over 80 businesses were subjected to the comprehensive spot checks.
During the inspections, a range of illicit and tax-evaded goods were confiscated, underscoring the seriousness of the issue. Among the seized items were significant quantities of illegal vapes, cigarettes, rolling tobacco, counterfeit clothing, and alcohol.
Alarming results emerged from the assessment, with 65% of the inspected businesses found to have breached the terms of their licences, leading to the confiscation of unlawful products. Further investigations revealed that many of the businesses had been concealing illicit stock in various locations, including behind cash registers, in roof spaces, offices, and even vehicles.
All confiscated goods have been earmarked for destruction, and recommendations for the review of several premises’ licences are currently underway.
Jo Tomkins, Police Senior Licensing Officer in the CSU, said: “We work closely with our partners at Hertfordshire Trading Standards to enforce the terms and conditions of the premises licences in Watford and to ensure they are trading safely and legally. Businesses in Watford have a responsibility and duty of care to their customers and the wider community.
“They should not be involved in activities that exacerbate local crime levels and undermine the licensing objectives.
“Unfortunately, people rarely think about the hidden cost of illicit cigarettes or alcohol, as they often finance organised crime. We will continue to pursue those who commit tobacco fraud and avoid paying tax.”
Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said: “When businesses fail to comply with the rules so they can avoid tax, or sell illicit or counterfeit goods, they let their customers and the community down. They also make life harder for the businesses in our town who do follow the rules.
“We work closely with Hertfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Trading Standards to make sure premises in Watford are complying with the conditions on their licences and are trading safely. Where we find that unlicensed activities are being carried out, we will investigate and take appropriate enforcement action.”
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Trading Standards said: “If you suspect that a premises is trading illegally, email firstname.lastname@example.org. as much information as possible to It will then be passed to the local Trading Standards Officer for review.”