The Radium Scheme, which stands for Reduction and Disruption in Unlawful Markets, was piloted in the Medway area of Kent in September 1999 and, according to project manager Sgt. Matthew Nix, aims “to make it extremely uncomfortable for people who try to buy and sell stolen property”.
In recent months traders in the Dover/Folkestone area have received a letter and questionnaire requesting very specific business and personal details in order for police to “decide on your business suitability for the scheme”. A dealer in Folkestone told the Gazette that as part of Radium he was only required to display an advertising poster in his window as his business was seen to be “bona fide”. However, others have been issued with ink pads with which to take the thumb prints of anyone selling them items along with a book in which to record the sellers’ names and addresses and, in some cases, Polaroid cameras so that they can take pictures of the sellers posing with their items.
Although Radium is a voluntary scheme, a number of dealers have told of undue pressure from the police to become involved, a claim the police have categorically denied. One dealer, who has traded from the same Folkestone shop for decades, refused to take thumb prints after he was requested to take not only those of sellers but also those of all his regular customers. “It is bad for business all round and, to be quite frank, it stinks,” he told the Gazette.
DC Mark Smith of Kent County Constabulary admitted there had been “mixed reactions” to the scheme but stressed its voluntary nature, adding that although traders were encouraged to participate as fully as possible, ultimately it was “left to their discretion” as to how fully they chose to follow the guidelines.
All the dealers the Gazette spoke to have refused to take thumb prints.
The National Council for Civil Liberties told the Gazette they knew about the scheme and were concerned, but added that the fact that it was voluntary meant they had no power to intervene.