An example of Central Co-op's safety equipment

Source: Central Co-op

The figures were highlighted in a white paper released by the society this week 

Central Co-op suffered a 59% increase in retail crime over the past year, primarily driven by shoplifting.

The society, which operates 400-plus food stores and funeral homes, said theft-related incidents spiked by 63.7%, while attempted theft rose by 77.7%, according to a white paper released by Central Co-op this week. The number of shoplifting cases staff reported to police rose by almost 60%, it added.

Staff also endured increasing levels of threats, intimidation and verbal abuse, rising by 47.1% compared with 2022. There were also 112 more incidents of anti-social behaviour committed.

Reported assaults within Central Co-op stores rose by 67.7%, with 223 incidents reported. This included assaults on colleagues, security personnel and customer altercations.

The surge in crime prompted the society to write 34 letters to MPs and host 10 MP and PCC visits at stores that had undergone an assault, including in Derby, Norwich, Peterborough, Nottingham, Leicester, Chesterfield and Birmingham.

“The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues will always be paramount to us,” said Central Co-op chief people officer Sarah Dickins. “No one should have to fear threats, violence or abuse, and the fact this is increasing across the retail industry in our society is unacceptable.

“We continue to invest in measures to keep our colleagues safe, whilst offering the best in-store experience we can for our members and customers.”

The white paper aimed to address the alarming rise of retail crime across its trading estate. One of the central proposals outlined was an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which seeks to criminalise assaults on shopworkers.

By enacting this measure, parliament could send a clear message that violence and organised crime within retail environments would not be tolerated, the society said.

Central Co-op is urging MPs to support the amendment and calling on PCC candidates to pledge their commitment to tackling retail crime.

“We’re working with law enforcement as well as local MPs to campaign for change together by amending the Criminal Justice Bill and hope that together, as an industry, we can make this meaningful difference to all retail workers,” added Dickins.

It comes as the BRC recently reported that incidents of violence and abuse in retail environments have doubled to 1,300 per day, while the Co-op Group commissioned a new report, written by Emmeline Taylor, professor of criminology at City, University of London, setting out a 10-point plan to fight the escalating problem.