Co-Op Deploys Undercover Veterans to Combat Shoplifting Surge Amid Police Inaction

Co-Op’s Shoplifting Challenge

A senior executive at the Co-Op has revealed a concerning situation as the retailer grapples with a surge in shoplifting incidents.

Despite deploying undercover security personnel, including police and army veterans, to tackle the issue, the company is often compelled to release apprehended shoplifters due to a lack of police response.

Rise in Shoplifting and Violence

According to Paul Gerrard, the Co-Op’s campaigns and public affairs director, the chain has experienced a significant 41 percent increase in shoplifting incidents during the first eight months of the year compared to the previous year.

Even more troubling, cases of violence against staff have risen by 25 percent. These statistics underscore the severity of the problem the Co-Op is facing.

Expert Security Personnel

To combat the rise in shoplifting, the Co-Op has invested in expert undercover security personnel, many of whom are former police officers and military veterans.

These individuals are tasked with making citizens’ arrests on thieves caught in the act.

Police Non-Response

Despite the presence of highly trained security personnel and clear evidence, Paul Gerrard laments that in a staggering 80 percent of cases, the police fail to respond to calls for assistance.

This leaves the Co-Op in a difficult position, as they must decide whether to detain shoplifters indefinitely or ultimately release them.

Scope of the Issue

Paul Gerrard sheds light on the scale of the shoplifting crisis, stating that the Co-Op encounters approximately a thousand incidents of shoplifting each day across their vast network of two and a half thousand stores.

Additionally, staff members face physical attacks daily, including encounters with dangerous items such as syringes and knives.

Gangs and Organized Crime

The root of the problem appears to be rooted in organized crime rather than opportunistic theft.

Gangs and individuals specifically target Co-Op stores to steal substantial quantities of products, escalating the severity of the issue.

National Trend of Rising Retail Theft

The Co-Op’s struggles with shoplifting are not isolated. Reported retail thefts have surged by 27 percent year-on-year in ten of the UK’s largest cities, with some areas seeing an astonishing 68 percent increase.

Concurrently, incidents of violence and abuse against retail staff have nearly doubled, encompassing crimes ranging from racial or sexual abuse to assault and threats involving weapons.

Co-Op Calls for Tougher Enforcement

Paul Gerrard asserts that while some police forces collaborate effectively with the Co-Op to apprehend prolific offenders, there is a lack of consistency across different regions.

He urges police forces to recognize the impact of shoplifting on shop workers and the viability of stores, emphasizing the need for tougher enforcement measures.

John Lewis Partnership Faces Similar Challenges

The challenges posed by shoplifting are not unique to the Co-Op. The John Lewis Partnership recently revealed a substantial £12 million increase in shoplifting-related costs, attributing the surge to organized crime groups rather than the cost of living.

The retail giant called for changes in legislation in England and Wales to criminalize the abuse of shopworkers, aligning with existing rules in Scotland.

Industry-Wide Efforts to Address the Issue

Retailers across the board are acknowledging the severity of the shoplifting problem and are taking measures to address it.

Lidl, the German discount supermarket chain, has announced increased investments in store security, including expanded CCTV coverage and the deployment of more body-worn cameras in its stores.

The industry is collaborating with the British Retail Consortium to find solutions, and retailers welcome engagement from the government and police to tackle this social issue.

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