Co-op records highest levels of retail crime with three to four staff attacked every day in 2023
Co-op stores and their staff have experienced ‘record levels’ of violence and theft, says the retailer, which has revealed that between three and four colleagues were attacked every day last year.
Almost 1,000 incidents took place daily in 2023 with shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour among the problems teams had to deal with.
Co-op says it saw more than 1,300 physical assaults against workers in 2023 – up a third on the year before – with more than 40,000 cases of anti-social behaviour and abuse recorded across its 2,400 stores.
The rise in incidents, says the company, is despite investment of more than £200million in preventative measures to try and make stores, employees and local areas feel safer such as body worn cameras for workers, interactive CCTV, dummy or empty packaging to deter bulk theft and the addition of undercover security staff.
But communities it feels, continue to be ‘blighted by persistent retail crime’ which has skyrocketed in recent years – partly as a result of the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The company, whose undercover guards detained 3,361 suspected criminals in 2023, is urging MPs to back an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that would make attacking a shopworker a stand-alone offence.
The plan, say campaigners, would offer greater protection to retail staff who have been subject to a record number of attacks since the pandemic.
Matt Hood, managing director of Co-op Food, said: “We are seeing far too many prolific offenders persistently steal large volumes of products, in our shops every day, and, if they are stealing to fund addictions, the situation often becomes volatile and dangerous.
“Crime is an occupation for some – it is not petty crime, and it is not victimless.
“It is imperative MPs don’t turn their backs on shopworkers, and vote through the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to give my colleagues the protection they deserve.”
In October last year a Retail Crime Action Plan was launched and included a police commitment to prioritise attending calls about shoplifting which involve violence against a shop worker, where security guards have detained an offender or where police are needed to secure evidence.
Since the introduction of the plan, says the Co-op, police non-attendance rates have dropped to 38% –down from 79 per cent.
However two in every five people detained will still walk away claims the supermarket, because officers can’t get there.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “Retail crime is not victimless and has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers.
“Having to deal with repeated and persistent offenders can cause anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.
“We urge Tory MPs and Ministers to end their long-held opposition to a protection of shopworkers law, which has already exists in Scotland and has led to over 500 convictions.”