The Co-op Group is rolling out body-worn cameras to front-line colleagues in a bid to increase safety amid increasing concern over retail crime.
The retailer has been involved in a campaign by the co-op movement to tackle the growing problem of attacks and abuse of retail workers – including calls for tougher new legislation.
Its targeted deployment of body cameras forms part of an ongoing commitment to invest a further £70m over the next three years in tech to keep colleagues safer.
The new cameras will be used in around 250 stores initially, with the ability to activate real-time audio and visual which is remotely monitored by the Group’s security partner, Mitie. Footage is used to identify criminals and provide evidence to secure prosecution.
The Group has seen store crime increase by more than 140% year-on-year, despite communities recognising the critical role played by key retail workers in society. The numbers of violent incidents also hit record levels with 1,350 attacks having been experienced by Co-op shop workers in the first six months of 2020.
As part of its Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign, the Group is also building awareness and support for MP Alex Norris’ Assault on Shop Workers Bill which has now seen its second reading in Parliament postponed until September. The Bill states that because shop workers have responsibilities to uphold the law on age restricted products they should be afforded greater protection in carrying out those public duties.
Reail security manager at the Group, Cheryl Houghton, said: “Shop workers play an essential role serving communities, yet they have to contend with unprecedented levels of violence and abuse on a daily basis.
“As a community retailer we see the impact of social issues in our stores. I have never seen such high levels of violence and abuse, it’s a societal issue that all retailers are concerned about and it’s having lasting effects on the lives of shop workers – both mentally and physically. It is not part of the job to be verbally abused, threatened or attacked and we’re determined to make sure it isn’t. Calling for greater protection for shop workers carrying out public duties, and for the root causes of crime in communities to be addressed.”