Retail crime in “focus” at Co-op with body-camera roll-out

Co-op is rolling our body-worn cameras to front-line colleagues with a focus on further increasing safety in-store against a background of rising retail crime in the industry.

The retailer warns of a crime and violence epidemic and its targeted deployment of body cameras forms part of an ongoing commitment to invest a further £70M over the next three years in innovative technology to keep colleagues safer.

The new cameras will be used in around 250 stores initially, with the ability to activate real-time audio and visual which is remotely monitored by the Security Operations Centre of Co-op security partner, Mitie. Footage is used to identify criminals and provide evidence to secure prosecution.

The Co-op has seen store crime increase by more than 140% year-on-year, despite communities recognising the critical role played by key retail workers in society. The numbers of violent incidents also hit record levels with 1,350 attacks having been experienced by Co-op shop workers in the first six months of 2020.   

As part of its Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign, Co-op is also building awareness and support for MP Alex Norris’ “Assault on Shop Workers Bill” which has now seen its second reading in Parliament postponed until September – the Bill states that because shop workers have responsibilities to uphold the law on age restricted products they should be afforded greater protection in carrying out those public duties.

Cheryl Houghton, Co-op Retail Security Manager, said: “Shop workers play an essential role serving communities, yet they have to contend with unprecedented levels of violence and abuse on a daily basis. As a community retailer we see the impact of social issues in our stores. I have never seen such high levels of violence and abuse, it’s a societal issue that all retailers are concerned about and it’s having lasting effects on the lives of shop workers – both mentally and physically.  It is not part of the job to be verbally abused, threatened or attacked and we’re determined to make sure it isn’t. Calling for greater protection for shop workers carrying out public duties, and for the root causes of crime in communities to be addressed.”

In its 2020 Crime Report*, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found that a quarter of violent incidents resulted in injury, with a weapon used in almost 20% of occurences. A knife was the most common used weapon (43%) with axes, hammers and syringes also used to attack or threaten shop workers.

In 2019, Co-op funded research** into retail crime, with the hard-hitting findings reporting that shop workers were showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Co-op has committed a further £70M over the next three years in innovative technology to keep colleagues safer, it has introduced: SmartWater Fog Cannons, the latest remote monitored iCCTV, body cameras and, communication headsets for all frontline colleagues.

*ACS 2020 Crime Report: https://www.acs.org.uk/sites/default/files/acs_crime_report_2020_online_versionb_spreads.pdf

**Report: “It’s not part of the job: violence and abuse towards shop workers” Dr. Emmeline Taylor, Director of Research, Department of Sociology at City, University of London: https://assets.ctfassets.net/5ywmq66472jr/22QfMejeWYbimJ9ykX9W9h/0e99f15c0ed24c16ab74d38b42d5129a/It_s_not_part_of_the_job_report.pdf

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