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    Co-op to use AI to tackle middle-class shoplifting

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    Co-op is set to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to launch a crackdown on a surge in middle-class shoplifting after it suffered a £70m hit from store thefts last year, reports stated.

    Matt Hood, the Co-op Food managing director, has stated it was installing more artificial intelligence (AI) technology in its convenience stores to help monitor what customers were putting in their shopping bags at its self-service checkouts.

    “We are looking at what we can do around AI and what we can do with that linkage to our CCTV cameras.”

    This would help them to “reduce the potential increase in middle-class crime”, Hood said, adding there was “some evidence” that self-service machines led to more theft.

    It comes as retailers battle to keep a lid on rising theft and attacks in stores.

    Hood said the company had spent £200m over the past few years to try to protect its staff and its stores, including putting dummy packets on shelves, securing kiosks and putting locking doors on high-value products.

    However, he said last year the company had still lost around £70m through “shrinkage”, which is the term used to refer to stock that is stolen, damaged or lost. Co-op said its stores were hit by more than 336,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour last year, equating to almost 1,000 incidents every day, marking a 44 per cent rise year-on-year.  

    Hood has warned that police is somewhere failing to turn and help its staff even when they have caught culprits. Its figures show police were not attending 79pc of incidents where it detained criminals. 

    “However, the real cost is the mental well-being of our store colleagues, as what disappeared from our shelves,” he added.

    “Despite the extensive measures we’ve put in place to protect our colleagues, the reality is every day four of my colleagues will be attacked and a further 116 colleagues will be seriously abused…as an industry, we can’t fix this on our own,” The Telegraph quoted Hood as saying.

    Co-op chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq said, “If you look at the sort of retail crime that we’ve been seeing, being a small store operator makes us more vulnerable to that sort of retail crime in that people intent on theft can get in and out of a small store much more easily than a large store.”

    Similar claims were made by Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman who recently stated that shoplifting was “creeping in” among the middle classes when people were using self-service machines.

    Norman said, “It’s too easy to say it’s a cost of living problem. Some of this shoplifting is gangs. Then you get the middle class. “With the reduction of service you get in a lot of shops, a lot of people think: ‘This didn’t scan properly, or it’s very difficult to scan these things through and I shop here all the time. It’s not my fault, I’m owed it’.”

    Also read: Co-op delivers robust revenue and profits growth; Nisa profits dip

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