Over the last year co-op shops across the UK have been targeted in robberies and ram-raids. In April alone, there were reports of ram raids and burglaries in Northamptonshire, Rotherham, Suffolk and Bedfordshire, among many others.
In Greater Manchester, robbers or burglars are targeting a Co-op shop every six and a half days, according to figures released by Greater Manchester Police for the Manchester Evening News. The publication revealed that there were 57 robberies and burglaries at co-op outlets across Greater Manchester in 2017, an increase from 43 in 2016.
Shop theft cost the average convenience store £2,605 in 2016 and remains the most common crime they face, as revealed by a report by the Association of Convenience Stores. Its members reported 3,163 incidents of robbery in 2016, and 3,313 burglaries.
The Association estimates that convenience retailers invest an average of £3,907 per store in crime prevention measures, such as CCTV cameras, external security equipment, and staff training to support store colleagues in preventing retail crime.
In October 2016 the Co-op Group rolled out a programme that saw cash and criminals splashed with gel when ATMs came under attack, leaving an invisible trace on clothes, skin and cash.
For this project the retailer collaborated with forensic technology company SmartWater. The initiative was piloted at over 300 locations in 2016, and saw a 90% cut in ATM crime – the scheme was rolled out to all cash dispensers located at Co-op food stores in August last year.
A spokesman for the Co-op Group said: “The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is of the utmost importance. Retail crime affects all retailers, and we take the matter very seriously. The Co-op works closely with police and other crime prevention bodies to implement a range of measures which are designed to not only deter and disrupt criminal activity, but to also increase the likelihood of convictions.”
Meanwhile, the Southern Co-operative has seen a marked increase in security challenges from both a store colleague and premises perspective and is particularly concerned about threats of violence towards its colleagues, as well as overnight burglaries and ram-raids on stores.
“Our number one concern will always be the safety of our colleagues and customers so we’re taking a series of immediate and longer term steps to deliver a safer working and shopping environment with significant financial investment planned in 2018, particularly to improve physical security
for colleagues,” said a spokeswoman for the co-op.
“As a co-operative, we believe working together in partnership is the most effective way of dealing with these issues and we are sharing incident intelligence and campaigning for a review of sentencing guidelines for violent convictions.”
Southern is engaged at both a regional and national level with partners including the police, the Home Office, the Association of Convenience Stores and the National Business Crime Solutions to combat the increase in retail sector crime.
“We support six projects in Sussex in partnership with the police, local authority, local businesses and other agencies. Our partnerships are putting community wardens into communities to deal with low-level business crime and associated issues such as street drinking and drug use. As each area has its own challenges, each partnership is tailored to local needs,” added the spokeswoman.
Announcing its annual results in May, the East of England Co-operative said it has seen its underlying trading profit fall since last year by £0.2m to £4.2m. The figure was impacted by its decision to increase its investment in safeguarding measures for in-store colleagues in the wake of recent robberies on retailers in the region.
The co-op has also recently extended its in-house security services to external businesses and communities by launching Co-op Secure Response, a new venture.
A spokesperson for the society said: “The safety of our colleagues, members and customers is paramount. The damage and disruption caused by these types of incidents affects everyone who relies on our services, particularly in rural areas. As a direct result of our in-house security team and dedicated colleagues, in most cases we were able to open our stores within 24 hours of the incident taking place.
“All our branches are fitted with CCTV and panic alarms and are monitored 24/7 by our in-house security team, ensuring that assistance arrives as quickly as possible. We have also invested in an increased security presence in-store and installed security screens and physical barriers, along with other security measures.”
The society has also partnered with Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) for its Freedom from Fear campaign. As part of the initiative, the East of England security team held interactive roadshows across East Anglia to help tackle anti-social behaviour by highlighting the real-life situations colleagues face.
Throughout the year the co-op’s Anti-Social Behaviour officer, Scott Walker, has also been working with young offenders convicted of committing crimes in stores. Unique to the East of England Co-op, this restorative justice programme offers youth offenders the opportunity to spend a day with Mr Walker. They are shown the impact of their actions upon colleagues and customers, before looking at their skill set with the aim of putting them on a more positive path.
Central England Co-operative has also suffered ram-raids and burglaries. It says it has a range of measures in place to deter potential incidents at its food stores and to protect colleagues, members and customers.
Early this year, the society joined forces with West Midlands Police and Northamptonshire Police to actively promote the fact that targeting convenience supermarkets is not ‘worth the risk’.
This campaign was aimed at promoting the society’s strict cash controls which limit the amount of money at each store to very low levels at all times.
Matt Birch, trading executive at Central England, said: “These incidents are frightening for store colleagues, who are our first priority, and
we offer them support and counselling both from within our business and specialists.
‘We have implemented increased security measures in partnership with the police in order to protect our colleagues, customers and community.
“We have full CCTV coverage in all our stores, have increased our provision of security guards and reduced incident response times. We are working well with the police and are confident of swift convictions in many cases.”