Central England Co-op rolls out body cams to over 50 stores in an effort to keep colleagues and customers safe

Central England Co-op is rolling out colleague body cameras to over 50 stores following a successful trial designed to keep staff safe and help drive down crime in stores.

The retailer, which has over 260 stores across 16 counties, initially trialled use of the technology in two of its Birmingham stores.

Now, due to its positive impact, it will be rolled out across other stores across the business in an effort to deter threats and acts of violence towards colleagues and security guards.

This comes as the retailer has 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.

Nicola Walton, Loss Prevention Advisor, said: “Our body camera trial was a great success. It allowed our colleagues to feel safer while serving their communities and played its part as another deterrent to prevent crimes before they take place.

“We are aware that any kind of crime can be frightening for store colleagues and this is why we are extended the rollout of the technology to over 50 stores across our trading estate.

“Over the past few years we have invested heavily in a range of measures to keep our colleagues and customers safe ranging from centrally monitored CCTV systems that can be activated at the touch of a button to increased numbers of security guards – today’s news is just another way we can continue to invest in keeping people safe at work and whole they shop.

“This will provide us with another tool in our efforts to have a zero tolerance approach to any type of crime towards our colleagues and customers. We now ask shoppers to work with us to make sure that nobody has to face abuse in their place of work.”

Recent figures from the retailer showed that over 10,000 incidents have been reported so far this year including 72 assaults, 879 cases of verbal abuse and threats, 272 anti-social behaviour reports and 159 direct incidents related to Covid-19.

This means, compared to last year, the total number of incidents have jumped by 31.1%, with rises in verbal abuse and threats and anti-social behaviour.

Some examples of incidents have included colleagues being punched in the face by shoplifters, verbal abuse, severe damage to stores, armed robberies and attempted thefts includes batons, used needles and knives.

Other recent innovations aimed at driving down crime include the expansion of centrally monitored CCTV to more stores, the further use of tracking devices in high risk products, the rollout of specialist software and technology to protect lone workers and new training packages and toolkits to ensure colleagues have all the information and skills they need to keep safe.

Store Manager Gill Evans, who helped trial the body cams in store, said: “We were so pleased to be part of the trial and to find out more stores will be getting this vital technology.

“Colleagues should not face any kind of abuse and these cameras act as another great deterrent to try and put people off.

“However, if people still want to abuse or threaten our colleagues they provide great evidence for our work with the police in ensuring they face justice.”

 

Notes to editors

Picture caption: Store Manager Gill Evans showcasing one of the body cams.

Picture caption: Close up image of one of the body cam devices.

Case studies

Central England Co-op has today released shocking CCTV footage of a colleague being attacked by a shoplifter as part of an ongoing campaign to try and end violence and aggression towards shopworkers.

The retailer decided to publish the film in an effort to showcase the unacceptable actions faced on a daily basis by its hardworking teams as they work around the clock to ensure local communities have access to vital food, essentials and services.

The film, taken from cameras at its store in Main Road, Duston, in Northamptonshire, shows Shift Manager Molly Horton being verbally abused and then struck in the face after attempting to stop a shoplifter spotted trying to steal items from the shop.

This comes on the back of a long-term campaign by the retailer calling for tougher penalties for people who abuse or attack shopworkers, an effort which has been backed by over 200 MPs and fellow retailers so far.

The 22-year-old said: “I was really shocked and could not believe when she reacted like that. I was calm and polite and just asked to check her bag and then she launched this unprovoked attack on me.

“I hope that by letting people see this footage they can see the kind of attacks, both verbal and physical, that shopworkers face day in and day out.

“Nobody should have to even think about the fact that this could happen to them while at work and I urge everyone to respect each and every person around them and never resort to these kind of actions.”

 

Steven Towers is our Markfield Store Manager and has worked for the Society for 24 years. A member of his team was verbally abused and physically attacked after catching a person urinating on the doors at the back of the shop. He also had his mobile phone stolen. The offender was caught and sentenced following the incident.

The incident has a big impact on all of the colleagues at the store meaning they did not feel safe in certain parts of the store. As a result, extra CCTV was installed in an effort to make colleagues feel safer at work.

 

Bryan Towle. Store Manager. Bryan was in charge of our Horsley Woodhouse store, in Derbyshire, when a till snatch incident took place last year. A male in the queue tried to take advantage of being bigger than the Customer Service Assistant on the checkout and reached around the till screens to grab a handful of notes. The colleague tried instinctively to stop him by slamming the till drawer down but the male then threatened the colleague, the colleague then stood back and let him finish not putting himself in any further harms way.

The colleague was understandably shaken at the time, and it made the team a little uneasy with it being a village store. As a store manager, Bryan saw his role as reassuring the colleagues that he did the right thing by letting the man take the contents of the till and not put himself in harms way. He also worked with the rest of the team to reassure them and ensured extra colleagues and security were in place following the incident.

 

About Central England Co-operative

Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral and property investment.

 

Owned by hundreds of thousands of members, its over 7,800 colleagues serve customers across 400 plus trading sites in 16 counties in the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

 

Its purpose is to inspire communities to create a sustainable Society for all.

 

It actively campaigns for the Government to increase sentencing for violent attacks on retail workers and works with FareShare Midlands and hundreds of food banks, generating enough food donations to create over 2.1 million meals for people in need.

 

The Society embraces inclusivity and equality and is a signed-up member to the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter, while it is also fully committed to addressing the impact of climate change and is on track to be Carbon Neutral by 2030. 

 

It invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities through its Community Dividend Fund scheme which has seen over £175,000 shared out between 116 good causes over the past 12 months.

 

Central England Co-op was named Leading Co-op of the Year by Co-operatives UK in 2021.

 

Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle

 

Phone - 01543 421390

 

Email - publicrelations@centralengland.coop