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Co-op warns out-of-control crime could deprive communities of local stores

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Co-op has reported a 35% year-on-year in crime, shoplifting, and anti-social behaviour, with more than 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of this year – almost 1,000 incidents every day.

The retailer is warning that this level of out-of-control crime is unsustainable and could even see some communities become a no-go area for local stores. The convenience retailer calls on all police forces and crime commissioners to target prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs to reverse the existing environment in many cities where they operate without fear of being caught or charged.

Reports show that almost two-thirds (63%) of crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders, with drug or alcohol addictions and, local organised criminal gangs, among the main drivers of offending. Yet a Freedom of Information request by Co-op has highlighted that police failed to respond in 71% of serious retail crimes reported. With some, according to their own data, not responding to nine in ten serious incidents reported.

With crime often the flashpoint for attacks, assault, abuse and anti-social behaviour, Co-op also revealed that front-line store workers had seen physical assaults increase year-on-year by almost one-third (30%) and, anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse rising by a fifth (20%).

Matt Hood, Co-op Food Managing Director, said: “We know retail crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders and, organised criminal gangs. It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and in the worst instances can even be described as ‘looting’. I have seen some horrific incidents of brazen and violent theft in our stores, where my store colleagues feel scared and threatened.

“I see first-hand how this criminal behaviour also erodes the very fabric of our communities – it’s hard to over-emphasise how important urgent change is. Co-op has invested significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe, but we need the police to play their part. Too often, forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams, and criminals are operating in communities without any fear of consequences.”

Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive, James Lowman, said: “Our members are at the sharp end, seeing crime in their communities get steadily worse. Shop theft is rising because repeat offenders and organised criminals are targeting local shops to steal goods to resell. This organised criminal activity exploits vulnerable people by getting them to steal to order in exchange for their next fix, funds the illegal drug trade, and harms businesses that provide essential services to communities.

“The police have to face up to theft, violence and anti-social behaviour in and around local shops. Cracking down on the criminals who account for the majority of this crime against our members would be the most effective way to make our communities safer.”

Co-op has invested more than £200m in recent years in colleague and community safety to counter criminal behaviour – per store this equates to four times the average sector spend on security and safety measures.

The retailer uses a wide range of targeted measures to deter criminal behaviour. This includes: interactive and remote monitored CCTV; body-worn cameras; communication headsets for frontline colleagues; covert and non-covert guarding and security; Smartwater; GPS tracked security cases and, ‘dummy’ packaging on shelves – which Co-op believes will only become a more prevalent and familiar sight in retailing.

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This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.