Co-op backs Respect for Shopworkers campaign

USDAW’s annual Respect for Shop Workers week is a cause which has never seemed so pertinent and relevant.

By Nub News Reporter

Posted: Monday, 13th November 2023 10:00 am

Staff now often wear bodycams
Staff now often wear bodycams
Local initiatives

Today (Monday, 13 November), at the start of Respect for Shopworkers Week, Co-op welcomes the ambition of the new Government Retail Crime Action Plan, however, warns that there is a long way to go to address the issue of retail crime which has reached record levels with repeat and prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs operating exempt from consequences.

  • Co-op welcomes the ambition of the new Government Retail Crime Action Plan, but warns there is a long way to go to address fundamental issues still prevalent
  • Almost 300,000* incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour YTD recorded at Co-op (up 43% YOY)
  • Co-op's specialist security teams have detained 3,000** offenders in 2023, with Police failing to show-up in almost four-fifths (76%) of incidents
  • Where co-operation with Police exists, it can be a solvable issue – three proactive UK forces issue combined 26 years of custodial sentences for the worst offenders

Co-op body worn camera

Co-op's latest data shows that of the near 3,000 occasions this year** where specialist security teams detained serious offenders, the police failed to show-up almost four-fifths (76%) of the time, leading to a dangerous 'pressure cooker' environment that puts store workers and communities at risk.

The Retail Crime Action Plan (announced in October) outlined an intention to ensure police attendance in stores to tackle violence; where prolific offenders or youth offender have been detained and, to ensure all evidence is collected so that every reasonable line of enquiry is followed – a vital step, currently all too often missing in the police response.

Matt Hood, Co-op MD, said: "We are pleased that the serious issue of retail crime, which impacts our communities so dramatically, has been acknowledged, and that Police chiefs have committed to attend incidents where the offender is detained. It is a welcome and reassuring move, which should complement the £200m*** we've invested in colleague and store safety. But, we very urgently need to see it in action in our stores, so the desperate calls to the police from my front line colleagues are responded to and the criminals start to realise there are real consequences to their actions"

Co-op has this year experienced almost 300,000** incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour this year (up 43% YOY) – around 1,000 incidents every day across its 2,400 stores. The convenience retailer has seen over 1,130 physical assaults (up 35% YOY) against store workers, and more than 36,000 incidents (up 39%) of anti-social behaviour and abuse.


However, Co-op has highlighted that where the serious incidents are prioritised, and clear co-operation with the police exists, it is a solvable issue. Where there is an established and effective partnership approach, forces such as Nottinghamshire, Essex and Sussex have, this year, removed 56 prolific offenders off the streets, with a combined 26 years of custodial sentences. A further 31 repeat offenders were given a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) or rehabilitation. This year Co-op has more than doubled its partnerships and works closely with over a quarter of UK police forces towards solving retail crime. but many more areas need to step up now and work with Co-op and other retailers to make a real impact at pace.

USDAW's annual Respect for Shop Workers week is a cause which has never seemed so pertinent and relevant. Co-op is hosting over 50 MP's and a number of PCCs into their stores across the UK this week, to really bring home the impact retail crime has on their store colleagues every single day.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, says: "These Co-op findings on police responses are extremely worrying and need to be addressed, because there is an epidemic of shoplifting that too often triggers abuse of shopworkers. We are concerned that successive Government policies give the impression that theft from shops has effectively been decriminalised. Underfunding of the police, with too few uniformed officers patrolling our communities; fixed penalty notices for thefts under £200, leading to too few of these crimes being investigated and prosecuted, and the recent announcement that fewer 'low-level offenders' will not be sent to prison.
"Our members are not only in fear of being a victim of crime, they are distressed that too few criminals are being caught and punished. That is why we are jointly calling for a protection of workers law, a standalone offence of assaulting or abusing a worker serving the public."

Co-op 'dummy' or empty packaging

Co-op has invested more than £200M over recent years in colleague and store safety and security, including the latest CCTV; body-worn cameras – capturing real time audio and visual footage at the touch of a button and, dummy (or empty) packaging to deter looting and bulk-theft. The retailer also uses covert (undercover) and non-covert guarding. With crime a flashpoint for violence, abuse and attacks on shopworkers, only specially trained security operatives detain criminals.


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