Lack of action against thieves has cost Co-op £33 million in the first half of 2023, grocery chain boss has said, calling on the police to take shoplifting more seriously amid rise in “shop looting”.
Matt Hood, the chain’s managing director, said shoplifting was becoming a major issue for UK communities and cited a rise in what he called “shop looting”, where large amounts are stolen by organised gangs.
Hood said the perception that shoplifting was a response to the cost of living crisis had given rise to the idea that it was a “consequence-less crime” by those in need and the lack of a proper policing response had seen it “grow as an epidemic in the UK”.
Hood said the Co-op had invested £200m in body cameras for staff, CCTV and other measures to keep employees safe as the group was losing stock worth more than £70m a year. He said he was becoming “increasingly frustrated” about police inaction, claiming they failed to respond to 71 per cent of reports of serious crimes.
“We need police to be on the front foot in helping us retailers deal with persistent offenders,” Hood said.
The Co-op has seen crime, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour jump 35 per cent year-on-year, with more than 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of this year – or almost 1,000 incidents every day.
While historically thieves have targeted certain products such as cigarettes, Hood said, adding that offenders were now stealing all kinds of items from confectionery to meat and health and beauty products.
Co-op has raised earlier in a crime report that criminals have ‘freedom to loot’ with rampant levels of out-of-control crime predominantly committed by repeat and prolific offenders, with drug or alcohol addictions and, local organised criminal gangs, among the main drivers of offending.
With one inner city London store ‘looted’ three times in a single day, Co-op warns that this level of out-of-control crime is unsustainable and could even see some communities become a no-go area for local stores.
With crime often the flashpoint for attacks, assault, abuse and anti-social behaviour, Co-op also revealed that front-line store workers had seen physical assaults increase year-on-year by almost one-third (30 per cent) and, anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse rising by a fifth (20 per cent).