Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

A surge in shoplifting could force the Co-op to close some of its shops.

Staff at the high street supermarket chain are being targeted by “professional criminals” who clear out entire aisles of goods, managers say.

The number of raids has made some of its 2,500 stores unprofitable.

Workers have welcomed pledges by police to take on shoplifters, but expressed frustration at the failure to take the crime seriously before now.

Co-op has been hit with 250,000 incidents of theft, violence or abuse against staff this year. That equates to 1,000 every day – a rise of 40 per cent in 12 months, says director of policy Paul Gerrard.

“Individuals are stealing the entire meat section, the entire spirits section, the entire household cleaning products section, to re-sell,” he said.

“They tend to be very determined, pretty brazen in what they do and if any colleague gets in their way they will be hurt.”

Staff have been told not to intervene for their own safety, he added.

The Co-op does employ specialist security guards who can detain shoplifters – but he said police fail to turn up in 78 per cent of cases.

The Home Office and National Police Chief’s Council last week pledged that officers would follow up calls over store thefts.

But Mr Gerrard said: “We are seeing staff leave their jobs because of abuse and unchecked criminality.

“We estimate this year that theft will cost us £70million.

“That is over and above the £200million spent in the past few years on protection. There are stores we are constantly reviewing because it is very expensive to keep them open. It is just not commercially viable.”

It is not just Co-op suffering from a rise in theft. Tesco has also reported a 30 per cent increase.

Andy Sanderson, the store giant’s head of security, said: “We welcome the closer collaboration with the police and wider retail sector, and the greater focus on this issue.”

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