Co-op launches drastic action to tackle shoplifting crisis after staff attacked by thugs wielding weapons | The Sun

Co-op launches drastic action to tackle shoplifting crisis after staff attacked by thugs wielding weapons | The Sun


CO-OP is launching drastic action to tackle shoplifting – after staff were attacked by thugs wielding weapons.

Boss Paul Gerrard said the chain has hired former cops and soldiers as undercover operatives.

He said the plain-clothes guards catch shoplifters but often have to let them go – because cops do not turn up to most cases.

Violence against Co-op staff has surged by 25 per cent this year – and shoplifting incidents have risen by a whopping 41 per cent.

Gerrard told the Mail: "These are highly trained expert guards – often ex-police and ex-forces – who work undercover in stores where there's a particular problem.

"Four or five colleagues will be physically attacked every day. We've seen syringes, knives and we even saw a medieval mace a couple of years ago.

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"This isn't just a bit of pushing and shoving – it's serious violence leading to broken bones."

Gerrard claimed that cops ignore four in five Co-op shoplifting cases – even when the thief has been caught and held for up to an hour.

He added that the chain is seeing around a thousand shoplifting incidents every day across its 2,500 stores.

Gangs are reportedly targeting Co-op to steal "large volumes of products".

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Branch managers have told of harrowing ordeals such as groups of masked and armed youngsters battering through glass doors, leaping over kiosks and looting shelves.

Assaults on staff are up by almost 30 per cent, with 20 per cent more anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse.

Employees described being threatened by raiders with knives and screwdrivers – with Co-op worker Charlene Corbin, 28, sharing snaps of her bloodied face after she was bottled by a shoplifter.

Among the staff members now speaking out is east London store manager Zarah, who called the situation "terrifying" and "worse than ever before" in her 20 years with the Co-op.

She added: "Shoplifting has always been there but this is different – they just sweep the products off the shelves."

David Brook, working at a branch in Leeds, told of raiders showing off knives, screwdrivers and needles they threaten to use on staff.

And Yasmin, manager of a store in north-west London, said: "We risked our lives working through Covid and now it feels like we are risking our lives all over again."

Attacks have included a gang's ram-raid of a Co-op in Poole, Dorset, using a stolen Range Rover to smash their way in before ransacking the store.

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