Co-op shops hit by looting and abuse with almost 1,000 incidents every day


The Co-op has reported that crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour in its stores have increased by over a third in the past year.

The company revealed there were more than 175,000 incidents in the first six months of this year – almost 1,000 every day.

One inner city London store was “looted” three times in a single day.

The Co-op warned that this level of “out-of-control crime” is unsustainable and could see some communities become a no-go area for local stores.

The convenience retailer called on police forces and crime commissioners to target prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs, with many said to operate without fear of being caught.

A Freedom of Information request by Co-op showed that police failed to respond in 71% of serious retail crimes reported.

The Co-op also revealed that front-line store workers have seen physical assaults increase year-on-year by almost a third and, anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse by a fifth.

Matt Hood, Co-op Food managing director, said: “We know retail crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders and, organised criminal gangs.

“It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and in the worst instances can even be described as ‘looting’.

“I have seen some horrific incidents of brazen and violent theft in our stores, where my store colleagues feel scared and threatened.

“I see first-hand how this criminal behaviour also erodes the very fabric of our communities – it’s hard to over-emphasise how important urgent change is.

“Co-op has invested significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe, but we need the police to play their part.

“Too often, forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams, and criminals are operating in communities without any fear of consequences.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive, James Lowman, said: “Our members are at the sharp end, seeing crime in their communities get steadily worse.

“Shop theft is rising because repeat offenders and organised criminals are targeting local shops to steal goods to resell.

“This organised criminal activity exploits vulnerable people by getting them to steal to order in exchange for their next fix, funds the illegal drug trade, and harms businesses that provide essential services to communities.

“The police have to face up to theft, violence and anti-social behaviour in and around local shops.

“Cracking down on the criminals who account for the majority of this crime against our members would be the most effective way to make our communities safer.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shop workers union Usdaw said: “Evidence is mounting that retail crime is on the increase.

“This is very concerning for our members in retail, because shoplifting is not a victimless crime.

“Theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers and, as the Co-op rightly says, it is often linked to organised crime gangs.”