The Central England Co-op has called for an end to violence and aggression towards shop workers as part of a new campaign, which includes closer ties with police and in-store posters.
The retailer - one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK - has linked up with all major police forces across its trading estate of 16 counties: West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
It comes after it was revealed that since January this year, Central England Co-op has recorded 275 incidents of threats/intimidation, 171 cases of verbal abuse and 72 assaults.
Nationally, based on figures released by the British Retail Consortium, 115 shop workers a day are attacked or threatened in stores.
Central England Co-op CEO Debbie Robinson said: “We want to send a clear message out to anyone who might act in a violent or aggressive way to colleagues in our stores that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
“We want people to think long and hard about the person wearing our uniform - they will be someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandma or grandfather. We want people to ask themselves whether they would like their relatives to be confronted by someone in a violent or aggressive way.”
The crackdown will be supported by an internal poster campaign in store, closer links with local police forces, lobbying government for changes in the law and several new measures in stores including:
• Centrally monitored CCTV systems that allow colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button
• Increased use of security officers and store detectives
• Stringent cash controls
• New colleague training on how to deal with situations involving violence or aggression
• Working with offenders to help them beat addictions and support their integration back into the community
Robert Godson, loss prevention advisor at Central England Co-op, added: “We will be working closely with other retailers, police forces across the 16 counties in which we trade and the government to tackle the issue of violence and aggression towards colleagues.
“We are doing everything we can to prevent incidents like this from happening, but, if something does happen, we offer them support and counselling both from within our business and specialists. We will continue to constantly assess these problems to ensure that incidents continue to fall and that our stores are safe places to work and shop.”
The new campaign comes on the back of a major drive by the retailer in an effort to reduce levels of crime in stores. The rollout of a string of new measures last year to reduce incidents saw burglaries drop by 6% and robberies drop by 30%, the Co-op said.
Robinson added: “This campaign is designed to ensure our colleagues and their families are protected from the physical and emotional impact of violence and aggression and feel safe to come to work.
“We are working closely with local police forces to crack down on this issue and have also installed a range of new security measures to assist us with that task.
“Everyone at Central England Co-op is proud to live, work and serve in our local communities - now we need people to work with us to make sure that violence and aggression towards our colleagues becomes a thing of the past.”
Central England Co-op employs more than 8,000 staff and operates 400-plus stores.