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Shoplifting spike at Co-op: The hidden costs and call for action

The Co-op has faced a staggering £33m loss in just the first half of this year, with shoplifting incidents reaching an all-time high.

Senior executives at the Co-op have raised alarms, pointing out that this surge in retail crime, often orchestrated by organised criminal gangs and repeat offenders, is becoming a pressing concern for communities across the UK.

Matt Hood, the Managing Director of Co-op Food, highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting that police currently respond to only a fifth of theft incidents. This lack of intervention often results in culprits walking free.

Hood expressed his frustration over the misconception that shoplifting is a victimless crime. On the contrary, store employees frequently face verbal abuse, and in more severe cases, threats involving knives or syringes.

The Co-op is now urging police forces nationwide to prioritise tackling organised retail crime and is calling on Police and Crime Commissioners to devise clear strategies to address this growing menace.

The alarming rise in shoplifting incidents isn't just a matter of financial loss for the Co-op. The human toll is equally concerning. Store staff, who are on the front lines, often bear the brunt of these criminal activities.

The emotional and psychological impact on them, especially after confrontations with aggressive shoplifters, can be profound.

The Co-op reported that one of its inner London stores was targeted thrice in a single day, with both physical and verbal assaults on staff members becoming increasingly common. Such incidents not only demoralise the workforce but also create an atmosphere of fear and apprehension.

In response to this surge in crime, the Co-op has been proactive in its approach. The company's chief executive, Shirine Khoury-Haq, in an interim report, emphasised the need for a safer working environment for store colleagues.

"Our colleagues deserve to feel safe at work, and to go home to their families after their shift; you deserve a safe space to shop, and our communities rely on us to be there for them," she stated.

The Co-op's plea for stronger police intervention and community support underscores the broader societal implications of unchecked retail crime.


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