Business owners preyed upon by petty thieves hope they will be caught more quickly thanks to new web technology which passes CCTV evidence to police.

The Facewatch website has been set up to allow traders to upload video images of shoplifters and bag-snatchers, so they can be followed up by local forces.

"It saves valuable time," said bar owner and company founder Simon Gordon.

"Rather than call the police, wait for an officer to turn up, then hang about while he gets the CCTV and takes it back to the station to watch, now managers can use the software to upload footage to the website.

"Police can start the investigation straight away."

Victims of crime can send a witness statement to police and receive a crime reference number without leaving the premises.

The scheme also creates a database of offenders so that images and information can be shared between businesses.

Facewatch is being launched in Widnes in Cheshire after a successful six-month trial in London.

According to the company, 45 outlets signed up to the pilot and 39% of all incidents so far have ended in a criminal conviction...