Anti social behaviour still

Paul Gerrard Head Shot

Paul Gerrard, campaigns, public affairs and board secretariat director, The Co-op

Last summer, as part of our six-year campaign on retail crime, the Co-op published its latest data on the rise in retail crime alongside the worrying level of police response.

Like all retailers, we welcomed the publication of the Retail Crime Action Plan in October 2023 in which the police committed to attending stores where an offender was detained, where violence had been used or where there was evidence to collect.

We were also delighted to see in April 2024, the Government commit to creating a stand-alone offence of attacking or abusing a shopworker mirroring the legislation already in place in Scotland.

Of course, welcoming those these commitments are, they mean nothing unless we see action on the ground. It is pointless unless we see police officers in store to investigate crime. And it is useless unless we see offenders caught and their behaviour changed.

Certainly, in the Co-op, we have seen since the Retail Crime Action Plan was published in October 2023, the beginnings of an improvement in police response. As one illustration of this, before October the police attended just 2 out of 10 occasions where our specialist teams had detained an offender but since its publication, we are seeing them attend six times out of 10 on such occasions.

This is better but we need to see it improve further and be maintained if we are to see retail crime successfully tackled.

Critical in doing this in your local area will be Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) whose job is to ensure the local police meet the needs of the community.

Later this week, we will have new or returning PCCs with a fresh mandate following the local elections. You should ask them what they will be doing to tackle retail crime and protect the shops you run that serve the communities they represent.

Specifically, I’d ask them how they will ensure that:

·       commitments in the Retail Crime Action Plan are fully implemented; and

·       the new stand-alone offence of assault against a shopworker is enforced and progress is reported through your Police and Crime Plan.

We have an opportunity to make sure the big bold statements by the Police and Government actually make a difference.

All retailers must hold the PCCs to account, there is an opportunity - urge the new PCCs to take it.

  • Earlier this year, Co-op launched a hard-hitting new report commissioned by Co-op, and written by Professor of Criminology at City, University of London, Emmeline Taylor, which set out a ten point plan focused on turning the tide on prolific offenders who relentlessly blight communities and wreak physical and mental harm on store workers. Central to the report’s recommendations was making an attack on shopworkers a stand-alone offence - something the Co-op has campaigned for since 2018 – you can read the report here.
  • Co-op has invested more than £200 million over recent years in colleague and store safety and security, this includes the latest interactive CCTV; body-worn cameras – which Co-op has used since 2019 to capture real time audio and visual footage at the touch of a button; fortified kiosks; use of dummy (or empty) packaging to deter bulk-theft and, covert (undercover) and non-covert guarding - with the tactical use of specially trained guards to detain criminals.