Maria Caulfield, Member of Parliament for Lewes, visited the Polegate branch of Co-op to meet with managers and staff during the Respect for Shopworkers Week organised by USDAW.
Maria visited the store with the Mayor of Polegate, Councillor Dan Dunbar, and they discussed the worrying increase in attacks and abuse that retail workers are facing with managers and staff at the branch.
Co-op have seen a huge rise in incidents in their stores in 2023 with 1,000 incidents every day across Co-op’s 2,500 stores in first 8 months of 2023 – 41% rise compared to 2022.
There has also been a rise of 25% in physical attacks on Co-op staff in 2023 compared to 2022 and more than 100 Co-op staff receive serious verbal abuse every day.
The management team explained that the main crux of the issue is not petty theft for personal consumption, the crime is being driven by gangs stealing large quantities of stock and re-selling them.
The store reported that they are working with Sussex Police to tackle this issue as Sussex Police are one of the few police forces in the country who have worked to tackle the prolific and persistent offending.
In response to the increase in incidents, on Monday 23 October the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) published their Retail Crime Action Plan (alongside Operation Pegasus which is an intelligence unit focused on identifying organised criminal gangs engaged in retail crime) which sets out what the police response nationally will be.
The Co-op has welcomed the commitments in the action plan and in particular the commitments to prioritise attendance to address violence and prolific offenders.
Maria Caulfield MP said:
“I was pleased to meet with the managers and staff at the Polegate branch of Co-op, they told me about the awful abuse and similar incidents with they have faced. Those who work in retail should be able to go about their work without fear of abuse and intimidation. I very much welcome the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan and hope that this will ensure that we take a zero-tolerance approach to shoplifting.”