London Co-op ‘looted’ three times in a day as supermarket reveals shocking scale of abuse

Co-op bosses have said that current levels of ‘out-of-control’ crime are unsustainable (Co-op/PA) (PA Media)
Co-op bosses have said that current levels of ‘out-of-control’ crime are unsustainable (Co-op/PA) (PA Media)

An inner city London Co-op store was “looted” three times in just one day, the firm has revealed, as it lay bare a huge rise in crime affecting its shops.

The first six months of this year saw more than 175,000 incidents of antisocial behaviour and crimes including shoplifting at its branches - equating to almost 1,000 a day.

Co-op says such incidents have increased by more than a third in the past year.

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

Co-op has 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 per cent 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.”

Last week the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents around 70 per cent of the UK retail industry, wrote to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling for more to be done to protect shop staff and crack down on thieves, amid a marked rise in retail thefts.

BRC research revealed theft from the capital’s retail premises soared by 13 per cent last year, compared to the previous year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Theft is down 20% compared to pre pandemic levels. However, we recognise the impact that theft can have on retailers which is why we are supporting police by providing funding for crime prevention means.

“The government’s anti-social behaviour action plan, which is backed by £160 million of funding will make our communities safer by ensuring perpetrators face swift and visible justice, tougher punishments and introduce early interventions to reduce this behaviour.”