Co-op launches ‘Be Kind’ campaign following major spike in violent incidents towards staff

Central England Co-op is today asking people to ‘be kind’ to shop colleagues after new statistics showed a rise in shocking incidents including knife attacks, verbal abuse, criminal damage, and staff being hospitalised.

The campaign has been launched in an effort to encourage people to treat shop colleagues with respect and to repeat the Co-op’s long-term message to would-be criminals that ‘it is not worth the risk’ to target them.

New research has shown that, in the last 12 months, incidents of verbal abuse jumped by 167%, anti-social behaviour by 39%, assaults by 35% and threats by 16% compared to 2019.

The retailer also revealed that 312 crimes related directly to Covid-19 have been recorded in stores since the start of the pandemic.

Examples of shocking incidents included:

  • A customer in Shepshed threatening a colleague with a wrench after they were refused the sale of an energy drink
  • Several incidents in Leicester and Birmingham which saw people making threats, and in some cases, shop workers were slashed at with a knife during attempted incidents of shoplifting
  • In Chesterfield, a colleague was punched in the face after spotting a shoplifter stealing items from a store and, in Birmingham, another worker suffered a fractured hip after being attacked by a shoplifter
  • In one of the worst incidents, a colleague was verbally abused, physically attacked and robbed in the car park of a store in an unprovoked attack
  • Multiple threats by customers to cough on sales assistants and ‘give them Coronavirus’ and further threats of assault because people have had to queue to enter stores, social distance or simply because they do not have a specific product.

Craig Goldie, loss prevention manager, said: “Seeing these incidents, in black and white, is a sad reminder of the terrible abuse and crimes that our colleagues had to face during 2020.

“Our teams have gone above and beyond over the last 12 months to ensure our communities have access to vital food and essentials, only to be greeted with shocking incidents like these.

“We want to send a clear message to anyone who might be thinking of committing a crime at one of our stores – this behaviour will not be tolerated and targeting our stores is not worth the risk.

“We need everyone to be kind and treat our colleagues with care, compassion and respect as they work around the clock for our communities. We want people to think long and hard about the person wearing our uniform – they will be someone’s much loved family member.

“We want people to ask themselves whether they would like their relatives to be confronted by someone in a violent or aggressive way, especially at this uncertain time – the answer is no, and therefore why should anyone who works in retail have to deal with this kind of behaviour.

“Everyone at Central England Co-op is proud to live and work in our local communities – now we need people to work with us to make sure our stores and the people in them are safe for everyone.”

Recently, to help combat this problem, the retailer rolled out a range of different measures including security assistance buttons and using tracking devices in more products to deter would-be thieves.

The retailer has also been working with other major retailers, unions, industry bodies, police and crime commissioners and over 200 MPs to push the Government to crackdown further on those who abuse or attack shopworkers via the introduction of tougher penalties such as an automatic prison term.

This security crackdown will be supported by several measures already in place in stores including:

  • centrally monitored CCTV system and increased use of security officers and store detectives
  • stringent cash controls
  • colleague training on how to deal with situations involving violence or aggression
  • working with offenders to help them beat their addiction and support their integration back into the community
  • A trial is also under way on body cameras for colleagues which, if successful, will be rolled out across all stores.