Co-op launches plan to tackle record levels of violence against staff

The firm has called for attacks on shopworkers to be a standalone offence.

The firm highlighted hundreds of thousands of incidents
Co-op shop The firm highlighted hundreds of thousands of incidents (Jacob King/PA)

Retail giant Co-op has published a plan to tackle rising levels of crime in the sector after revealing a record amount of violence against its store staff.

The company said attacking shopworkers should be a standalone offence in a bid to tackle the growing problem.

There were more than 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour in Co-op stores last year, it was revealed.

The number of assaults increased by a third to more than 1,300.

A report commissioned by the Co-op, and written by Professor of Criminology at City, University of London, Emmeline Taylor, set out a 10-point plan aimed at turning the tide on the “alarming” increase in crime, violence, intimidation and abuse.

An offence of attacking a shopworker is an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which is soon to be debated in Parliament.

The Co-op said the increase in crime came despite it introducing more than £200 million of preventative measures over recent years to make its stores and communities safer.

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.

“Taking on board Prof Taylor’s recommendations, with a collaborative approach between the retail industry, the police, and the Government, will send out a loud and clear message to all those who commit brazen and violent acts of theft that time is now up on their criminal ways.”

Prof Taylor said: “Retail crime not only impacts on a business’s ability to operate safely and profitably but as my report demonstrates it also causes serious harm to shop workers, both physically and mentally, and to communities that are blighted by persistent offending.

“The police in England and Wales have lost grip on the scale and severity of acquisitive crime, and, in turn, retailers have lost confidence in them and the wider criminal justice system.

“My report sets out 10 actionable recommendations to turn the tide on the current tsunami of shop theft.

“By taking decisive action to tackle high-volume, high-impact retail crime, the police and retail industry can work together to create safer communities in which to live, work and shop.”

Alex Norris, shadow minister for policing, said: “Shop workers have been telling us for far too long that they are facing unacceptable levels of violence and abuse but they are being let down by a government that cannot keep the streets safe.

“Shop workers deserve dignity and respect. While the Tories take a back seat, Labour will introduce a new offence of abuse against shop workers so we can put an end to violence, threats and abuse at work.”