A partnership between the Co-op and Sussex Police has been credited with helping to bring at last five prolific offenders to justice in just a few months.
At least one man has been jailed as a result of the joint work – part of a pilot scheme aimed at making it quicker and easier for businesses to report crime.
The pilot scheme started less than six months ago after a survey of 100 businesses by Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne.
The survey found that firms reported as few as 8 per cent of offences to the police – and the findings helped lead to the “one touch reporting” pilot scheme.
The trial is working initially with 22 Co-op stores to find ways to simplify reporting processes, generate better intelligence, identify trends and reduce the impact of repeat offenders in communities.
Sussex Police has also recruited six business crime investigators and the force’s business crime lead Chris Neilson said: “We are keen to raise confidence among businesses by improving the way they engage with us and can report crimes in ways that work for them.
“Having an accurate picture of the crimes affecting businesses is vital and means we as a force can respond more effectively, especially in the way we target repeat offenders.
“In particular, we want to focus on bringing to justice those who believe they can use threats and violence against shopworkers.”
Mrs Bourne’s office said: “As a result, Sussex Police are seeing a threefold increase in reports, with the additional information and intelligence gathered resulting in the arrest of five prolific offenders.”
The police and crime commissioner and the Co-op ran a Keep Christmas Kind campaign at the end of last year, highlighting some of the verbal and physical abuse faced by shop staff.
One of those to speak out was a store manager from Brighton and Hove after the Co-op reported a rise in abuse and assaults involving staff during the covid pandemic.
The British Retail Consortium nationally asked shoppers to be respectful to shop staff as thousands of stores prepare to reopen tomorrow (Monday 12 April) after the latest coronavirus lockdown.
Locally, Co-op divisional managing director Peter Batt said: “There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our colleagues – no one should have to face violence and abuse just for doing their job. It has a lasting impact not only physically but also on their mental wellbeing.
“By working together, we are all seeing better outcomes. Police have now attributed the arrest of five prolific local offenders to the success of this scheme so far, reducing the impact that repeat offenders have in our communities.
“Alongside this, we continue to call for government to show that it is listening and to introduce greater protection for shop workers with stiffer sentencing sending out a clear message that violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour is just not acceptable.”
One of those arrested since the start of the pilot scheme was Chris Way, 39, from Worthing. He was jailed for nine months on Monday 15 March for persistent shoplifting, breaching a community order and breaking his electronically monitored curfew.
The police and crime commissioner said: “This new reporting system is a welcome and bold move by Sussex Police.
“It is also an example of how effective partnership working can lead to proactive solutions for businesses with robust action taken against offenders.
“It will no doubt result in an increase in crime reports locally and I do not shy away from this. We need to paint a clearer picture of business crime and, once we have the evidence, it then cannot be ignored.
“It’s never the value of the goods being stolen that should be the only reason to respond. The impact upon our business community and our frontline shopworkers must be understood and acted on more effectively, especially as offenders are almost certainly committing offences elsewhere.
“In Sussex we are determined to show offenders that they will be held to account for their actions and to demonstrate to the public that we take these crimes seriously.”
Mrs Bourne chairs the Sussex Safer Business Partnership which brings together police and retailers, including newsagents and pharmacists, as well as other business groups, to identify issues and solutions.
Once the pilot scheme has been completed, Mrs Bourne would like to see the lessons shared with all local businesses and to see the changes that work adopted nationally.
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