Co-op employs ‘undercover guards’ to catch thieves in stores as shoplifting figures rise

The move comes as figures show a rise in shoplifting offences this year
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Undercover guards have been employed by Co-op in a bid to combat the rise in shoplifting. The supermarket chain has reportedly increased the use of “covert” security guards to catch thieves red-handed in stores.

According to The Times, the security staff have been supplied by contractor Mitie and have been trained to confront and hold thieves until the police arrive. The move comes after Co-op revealed it has been forced to use display-only packaging for everyday products including jars of coffee, laundry gel and washing powder due to the rise in theft.

Meanwhile, new figures from The Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting figures have increased by a quarter this year.

Co-op managing director of food Matt Hood told The Telegraph: “The rise in shop looting and retail crime, perpetuated by repeat, prolific offenders and organised criminal gangs is becoming one of the most significant issues facing UK communities.

“This isn’t a victimless crime, as my store colleagues who have been verbally abused and had knives and syringes pulled on them can vouch for, but it is seemingly a consequence-less crime.

“Co-op has invested over £200m to try and keep our colleagues and stores safe, so I am increasingly frustrated by how our efforts are not being matched by those who have the power to enforce consequences.”

However, a Freedom of Information request by Co-op earlier this year showed that police failed to respond in 71% cases of serious retail crimes reported. Meanwhile, it has been announced that ten of the UK’s largest retailers are clubbing together to fund a £600,000 police initiative to deter these crimes further.

Tesco, John Lewis and Next are among the stores coming together under Project Pegasus. The scheme will run CCTV pictures of shoplifting incidents through the Police National Database - in a a bid to minimise these types of crimes and identify thieves.

The initiative will use facial recognition technology, giving police a “national picture of where shoplifting gangs are operating and the shops they are targeting”.

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