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    Central Co-op reports spike in theft, abuse, assault on shopworkers

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    The Central Co-op has released a report outlining the stark realities faced by shopworkers and retailers, calling for urgent legislative reform to protect frontline workers and communities.

    Central Co-op saw a 59 per cent increase in retail crime in 2023, prompting the Society to write 34 letters to MPs and host 10 Member of Parliament (MP) and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) visits at stores that had undergone an assault, including in Derby, Norwich, Peterborough, Nottingham, Leicester, Chesterfield and Birmingham.

    The report states that theft-related incidents have particularly spiked, showing a 63.7 per cent increase compared to the prior year, with actual reported theft rising by 58.4 per cent. Attempted theft has also seen a notable increase by 77.7 per cent, yet this stat does indicate that Central Co-op has implemented improvements in prevention methods.

    Reported assaults within Central Co-op stores have risen by 67.7 per cent, with 223 incidents reported. This includes assaults on colleagues, security personnel and customer altercations. Among these, 78 assaults were against Central Co-op colleagues and 122 against security personnel. Instances of threats, intimidation and verbal abuse have also surged, rising by 47.1 per cent compared to the previous year. Additionally, anti-social behaviour within the stores has increased by 25.7 per cent, with 112 more incidents compared to the previous year, states the report.

    Despite these alarming trends, only a fraction of reported incidents result in prosecution, indicating a pressing need for effective intervention. One of the central proposals outlined in the white paper is a crucial amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which seeks to criminalise assaults on shopworkers.

    By enacting this measure, Central Co-op said Parliament can send a clear message that violence and organised crime within retail environments will not be tolerated. Central Co-op urges MPs to support this vital amendment and calls on PCC candidates to pledge their commitment to tackling retail crime.

    The report states that incidents of serious retail crime, including assaults on shopworkers, too often go unaddressed by law enforcement and that’s why Central Co-op is urging Members of Parliament (MPs) to support an important amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill ‑ a measure that would make it a specific offence to assault a shopworker.

    By enacting this amendment, Parliament can send a powerful message that violence against those enforcing the law within retail environments will not be tolerated. Central Co-op is urging its colleagues, Members and customers to take action now, states the report, asking everyone to contact their MPs and ask if they will stand with shopworkers by supporting the Retail Workers amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

    Sarah Dickins, chief people officer at Central Co-op, said, “The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues will always be paramount to us. No one should have to fear threats, violence or abuse, and the fact this is increasing across the retail industry in our society is unacceptable.

    “We continue to invest in measures to keep our colleagues safe, whilst offering the best in-store experience we can for our Members and customers. We’re working with law enforcement as well as local MPs to campaign for change together by amending the Criminal Justice Bill and hope that together, as an industry, we can make this meaningful difference to all retail workers.”

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