Mark Wingett reports on the c-store chain that’s building relationships with local communities in a bid to make life better for everyone

To enter the offices of Jacksons Stores in North Ferriby, East Yorskhire, you first have to write down your details on a logbook and then get a security pass. It is an early reminder that here security begins at home.

I have come to visit Bailey Oliver, who is in charge of security for the company’s 115 c-stores across the the North East, North West and the Midlands.

Oliver has been with Jacksons for the past three years and he has made it an objective to see an increased sense of security across the company’s workforce, so much so that it is one of the issues tackled in the annual staff satisfaction survey.

He says: “Last year’s survey showed a slight increase in feeling safe at work, I’m hoping this year’s, due out soon, will see a further increase. It is pleasing that staff feel safer but it doesn’t hide the fact that we still have a long way to go.”

Oliver and his team of eight loss prevention managers have been busy developing the relationship between Jacksons stores and police, councils and local residents.

A former loss prevention manager with Tesco, he says the move from supermarket to c-store has required a lot of adjustment. “It was a totally different world moving from supermarkets to c-stores, although the security problems you find are pretty much the same.

“However, I was very surprised to see the amount of violence used against staff, the abuse they suffered and also the number of robberies.”

The first move Oliver made was to get to grips with the exact problems each store was facing. He says: “You will find the problems in say Leeds and Nottingham, where there is more of a gun culture and cash robberies are prominent, are different to Hull or Scarborough, where shoplifting would be more prevalent.

“When I joined Jacksons I put in place a generic risk assessment process, where all stores were assessed on the same criteria. Each store is now assessed online, and once we have identified exactly what the risks are, we put in place the resources needed to benefit each individual case.”

The company has a specific robbery awareness training package, which gives them the tools to deal with being faced by a robber. “Our stance is very much a passive approach - give the robber what he wants, don’t try to protect the store, because you are more important than the cash or the stock.”

Staff presence on the store floor is also key. Oliver continues: “We always have a member of management, whether that’s a store manager, deputy manager, supervisor or what we call a P10, which is a senior, trusted member of staff, in a store at all times as part of a team of three. “Our strategy is that the shop floor presence deters shoplifters and it also prevents a lot of other incidents because seeing numbers of staff in a store deters criminals.

“We identify the vulnerable times, - opening, closing, early evenings and the end of the school day - and we make sure we have are maximum shop floor presence.”

Jacksons uses digital CCTV, which allows Oliver to remotely view what is going on in each store from his desk, while the area managers have access to the same system and can check on the stores via laptop computers.

However, it is working with the local police, businesses and council, that Oliver believes is the key for making not just his stores safe but whole communities.

He says: “If we have a problem with anti-social behaviour in one of our stores then I believe that is going to be replicated throughout the whole community.
“In my experience, you find anti-social behaviour problems are generally not seen as being an issue for the wider community. We like to get involved or become the catalyst for meetings with local police, councils, other businesses and local residents to work toward combating anti-social behaviour as a whole.”

This includes working with local Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) whenever possible.
“Wherever a Safe Shop Partnership exists, we are part of it, and where they don’t, we try to start them,” says Oliver. “In most areas we operate we’re also part of radio link schemes and I believe that is the answer. By working with other retailers in local communities you can combat crime effectively.

“The problems we face are faced by all stores in the community, so we need to work together to solve them. Better communications between stores is a major step in working toward this.”

This emphasis on good communication also applies to local police.

The estate of Jacksons stores is spread out across the remit of six police forces, so building up a good relationship with each is essential, especially when it comes to pushing through Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

Oliver says: “We identify individuals who are causing us problems in our stores and build up a log book on their activities. We hand over the logbook to the police, and say this guy or girl has done these things over a certain period of time, here is the evidence and we would like to take out an ASBO.

“Rather than give police one piece of evidence, we will wait until we have enough information plus CCTV footage to go to them and hopefully get a result. From the police’s point of view, the more we can help them the more responsive they will be. It’s critical we accept that the police have a lot of calls on their time, so we have to try to work with them as much as possible.”
The ability to work as a team is also shown in Oliver’s work with his counterparts at Bells Stores and Sainsbury’s Local.

He says: “We are now meeting once a month to share intelligence on known troublemakers and to share best practice ideas, which may not work for our own stores but may work for each others’.”

For the future, Oliver is already think of trialling classical music outside stores to drive away yobs and of taking the working relationship with the local police a step further.

He said: “With our store in Halifax we have been speaking to the local beat officers about using the store as a base. We’ve also been discussing putting up a community notice board in the store so local residents can see what the issues are and can use us as a post box to give over any information they may have.

“Having a police presence in the store can also help our staff feel safer and deter troublemakers. Everyone’s a winner.”