Stores are witnessing “blatant looting” where sometimes entire shelf is sweeped into bags, a co-op boss has said, warning that stores are descending into “anarchy” as staff face a sharp rise in retail crime.
Operations director Kate Graham said they were facing prolific shoplifting to order and a rise in armed robberies.
“What we are seeing is blatant looting – people just coming in with a large bag and taking what they want because they are recognising the lack of consequence. We are seeing repeat offenders and we are seeing prolific shoplifting. People are stealing to order so this is absolutely not about the cost of living crisis,” Graham said on BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme
She described individuals entering stores in some parts of the UK and “sweeping an entire shelf” into a bag.
She added that crime was also rising in areas which had never had issues before.
“There was an armed robbery in Glenrothes recently – it was actually a gun crime. There have been a number of armed robberies in the Edinburgh area and the Glasgow area. That is an increase on anything I have seen before.”
“It is now quite standard to have product protection on lots of key lines that are seen as high theft lines,” she said.
“We look at things that are potentially used to sell on. You have got your standard things like steak. However, we are seeing things like baby milk being stolen because it is being used to cut drugs. We are seeing things in health and beauty being stolen as it is being used to fund organised crime.
“Coffee, confectionery, we are seeing kiosk breaches, armed robbery, wines and spirits – there are not many items that are not being targeted,” she said.
The Co-op has spent millions on the design of its stores to try to prevent theft, she said. Steak and cheese are being fitted with security tags and coffee is being replaced with dummy jars in stores.
Staff go through conflict training but are encouraged not to put themselves at risk – which, she says, is sometimes exploited by thieves.
A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that 71 per cent of reported incidents were not attended by police officers, Co-op states in a report.
Responding to the statements, David Kennedy from the Scottish Police Federation told Drivetime that “calls are being stacked within control centres because there is no one to attend”.
“We have been saying for a long time that the service just does not have enough police officers to do the job they need to do. And the recent announcement that the numbers will be reduced by another 600 because of the budget proposed just sets alarm bells ringing.
“The calls are not being answered because there is nobody to go. The call might be sent across to the division for them to send somebody, but if no one is going at the point when they are needed, by the time somebody is ready to attend, it’s too late.”