Investment in new security measures has led to significant falls in crime at Co-op stores, according to the movement’s latest annual crime survey.

Incidents of robbery and customer theft affecting Co-op stores fell during the year to January 2005 compared with the previous 12 months, according to the report.

The new figures showed a 21% drop in robberies and a 4% drop in incidents of customer theft (27,898 to 26,671). Resulting losses from customer theft fell by 32%.

The total number of retail crime incidents across 18 Co-operative societies, which between them have 2,972 retail food stores, fell by 4% from 34,528 during 2003/4 to 33,173.However, total recorded losses rose from £3.5m to £4.2m.

Incidents of violence against employees increased by 10%, but indications from the survey are that these cases are made up of mostly verbal rather than physical abuse.

Co-operative Group chief executive Martin Beaumont highlighted the innovative approaches that the Co-op movement had invested in, such as playing classical music outside stores and developing “cop shops” with local police, as major reasons for the fall in incidents of crime.

Beaumont said: “The fact that the number of incidents recorded by societies has decreased is a positive sign and demonstrates that all of the Co-operative movement’s efforts in combating retail crime are beginning to pay dividends. Working in partnership with police and other organisations is important.”

United Co-op is one of the societies that has invested heavily in security equipment such as tagging and white noise to cut shoplifting and robberies.

United Co-op group loss prevention manager Paul Winstanley said: “These results show that the investment we have made, the constant staff training and the schemes we have put into place are having an effect.”