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    Co-op reports record level of retail crime, calls for amendment to Criminal Justice Bill

    Image by Co-op

    Co-op has reported record levels of crime in 2023 with more than one-third million incidents (44 per cent YOY increase) as many communities continue to be blighted by persistent retail crime, revealing a ten-point plan to break the cycle of retail crime.

    According to a new report launched on Wednesday (7), Co-op undercover (covert) guards detained 3,361 criminals in 2023. The convenience retailer has seen green shoots of improvement since the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan – yet two-in-five criminals detained by trained security guards still walk away with Police failing to attend.

    The convenience retailer saw over 1,325 physical assaults against store workers in 2023 (up 34 per cent YOY) - that is three or four colleagues attacked or assaulted every day. More than 40,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour and abuse (up 37 per cent) were reported in 2023.

    With unchecked crime reaching record levels, a new report launched on Wednesday (7) – commissioned by Co-op, and written by Professor of Criminology at City, University of London, Emmeline Taylor – sets out a ten point plan focused on turning the tide on prolific offenders and building on advancements seen to address the alarming increase in crime, violence, intimidation and abuse that continues to beset the retail sector, blight communities and wreak physical and mental harm on store workers.

    This is despite Co-op introducing over £200M of preventative measures over recent years to make its stores and communities safer.

    New data reveals green shoots of improvements in Police response rates since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan.

    Working with its security partner, Mitie, specially trained undercover (covert) guards detained 3,361 criminals in Co-op stores during 2023. Earlier this year, the retailer reported that Police failed to attend in nearly four-fifths (79 per cent) of incidents where a criminal had been detained – creating a dangerous, intimidating and threatening environment in communities. Since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan, the non-attendance rate has improved to 38 per cent yet, with two-in-five detained criminals still walking away, it continues to send a message that this is a consequence-less crime.

    With an estimated 70 per cent of shop theft committed by frequent users of Class A drugs who are stealing to fund a drug addiction, the crimes they commit become more volatile, desperate, and potentially violent, states the Co-op report.

    Matt Hood, MD 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 Professor 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.”

    Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, says, “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. It was deeply disappointing that the Government have no measures in their legislative programme to tackle high levels of retail crime and safeguard shopworkers.”

    Co-op has partnerships with a number of Forces, such as Nottinghamshire, Essex and Sussex, who, in the past 12 months, removed and managed 110 prolific offenders, with a combined 30 years of custodial sentences and a further 60 years’ worth of Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO) given. Also 16 offenders received some form of rehabilitation order.

    Click here for Co-op’s report “Stealing with Impunity – the policing of prolific local offenders and the impact on our shops and communities” 

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