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Convenience retailer Co-op has introduced 200 secure till kiosks and artificial intelligence (AI) software to monitor self-checkouts following a rise in retail crime, with around 1,000 incidents a day in 2023.

Co-op reported its undercover security guards detained 3,361 individuals across its 2,400 stores last year. Offences including burglary, abuse, harassment, and physical assaults on its staff.

The retailer had previously spent £200mn on security measures, including additional guards and a roving undercover team targeting crime hotspots. However, it has still recorded a 48% rise in shoplifting incidents to almost 298,000.

“This is not a few opportunistic shoplifters becoming more prolific. This is organised crime and looting,” said Matt Hood, managing director Co-op Food.

Reinforced till kiosks with secure doors and locked cabinets for bottles of spirits have been introduced, but Hood stressed that Co-op will not be using facial recognition systems unlike a number of other major chains.

Furthermore, Hood has joined retail bosses and the British Retail Consortium to call on the UK government to introduce a standalone offence for assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker. It comes as it was revealed two-in-five of those detained by the chain’s guards walk away as police had failed to attend an incident.

“People who are really organised can only be stopped by custodial sentences and the police. We need it to have consequences,” added Hood.

“The thing that concerns me more than anything is that we have colleagues who won’t bother to report [incidents] as they know they are not going to get a reaction.

“If you have detained somebody that has committed a crime and the police don’t turn up, you have to let them go. You can imagine how demotivating that is for people working in the shop and how motivating [it is] for shoplifters.

“Unless these crimes become something police act on, this will continue. It has been proved in Scotland that if you make it a specific crime to attack a shopworker, incidents come down. We need that to happen in England.”


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