The National Member’s Council on the Co-op Group has agreed to make Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities an official campaign for the organisation.
The decision by the council, which represents the society’s 4.6 million members, means the Group will campaign “to get to get the issue of colleague and community safety taken more seriously and use our community presence to tackle root causes of violence and crime”.
A new report from the Group includes case studies of violent incidents which have affected its store workers, including harrowing accounts of robberies where staff were threatened with axes and crowbars.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive of the Group’s Food division, said: “The Co-op is committed to tackling crime impacting our colleagues and the communities in which they live”.
Steps already taken include work with MPs Alex Norris (Labour/Co-op) and David Hanson (Labour) to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill to provide greater protection for shop workers.
The Group will also work with other co-op retailers, the wider business community and trade unions, including the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), whose general secretary Paddy Lillis discussed the issue of store security in a speech to the Co-op Party in October.
“We supported Usdaw’s Respect for Shop workers week,” added Ms Whitfield, “where we welcomed 48 MPs into our shops and talked to them about the impact crime has on our colleagues. We’ve also been talking to other influential people like the police, community groups and the media and leading the conversation that this is a crime against people, our colleagues and communities, not business.”
She said the campaign will also see a “a focused investment in our shops to reduce the impact on colleagues even further.
“This year we’ve significantly invested into technology such as intelligent CCTV, colleague headsets, guarding in vulnerable stores during at risk hours and training of our colleagues and this will continue.”
Attacks on shops have sparked increasing concern in across the co-op retail movement this year, prompting new security measures – including beefed-up CCTV, ATM security and other initiatives at Central England Co-op and the launch of a new business offering security services at East of England Co-op.
The Group, which in September received a petition from staff complaining that staffing levels were dangerously low in stores at night, offered detail of specific uses of its security measures in the report.
These include the introduction of headsets for staff so they can stay in contact with each other at all times, and working with the police to bring stores closer to their communities and to work with young repeat offenders so that they understand the effect of their actions.
It is also offering funding and other support through its Local Community Fund to organisations working to reduce anti-social behaviour, including the Damilola Taylor Trust, which supports young people aged 12 to 24 in South London, Streetspor, which delivers youth activity in Aberdeen, and the Streetwise project in Bradford, which works to give young people a new direction in life.