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Home>Security Matters>Security Matters>UK’s largest consumer co-operative leverages body-worn video to battle in-store crime

UK’s largest consumer co-operative leverages body-worn video to battle in-store crime

16 September 2020

CO-OP, THE largest consumer co-operative in the UK and one of the largest retailers in the country, is rolling out an integrated body-worn video solution to front line colleagues with a focus on further increasing safety in-store against a background of rising retail crime in the industry.

The Co-op has seen in-store crime increase by more than 140% year-on-year, despite communities recognising the critical role played by retail workers in society. They’re true front line workers in the days of a global pandemic. The number of violent incidents have also hit record levels, with 1,350 attacks having been experienced by Co-op shop workers in the first six months of 2020.  

The retailer warns of a crime and violence epidemic and its targeted deployment of a body-worn video solution forms part of an ongoing commitment to invest a further £70 million over the next three years in innovative technology in order to keep colleagues safe.

At present, the Co-op is equipping front line staff with more than 1,000 Motorola Solutions VT100 body-worn cameras in around 250 stores initially, with the ability to stream video in real-time to the Security Operations Centre run by the Co-op’s security partner Mitie. The footage is used to identify criminals and provide evidence in a bid to secure prosecutions.

The VT100 cameras can be worn in standby mode for up to six months, preserving battery for those instances when Co-op store colleagues feel threatened by aggressive or violent behaviour. The cameras are operated by a simple one-push activation, instantly recording footage to the camera itself and streaming live video to the Security Operations Centre, allowing for a quick response from security personnel or the police.

The cameras are supported by cloud-hosted VideoManager software, which enables secure and efficient camera allocation, user administration and incident management. With security features such as comprehensive audit trails, encryption, configurable retention policies and RFID camera allocation, this integrated solution ensures that incidents are dealt with efficiently and securely.

‘Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities’

As part of its ‘Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities’ campaign, the Co-op is also building awareness and support for MP Alex Norris’ Assault on Shop Workers Bill, the second reading of which in Parliament is due this September. The Bill states that, because shop workers have responsibilities to uphold the law on age-restricted products, they should be afforded greater protection in carrying out those public duties.

In its 2020 Crime Report, the Association of Convenience Stores found that a quarter of violent incidents resulted in injury, with a weapon employed in almost 20% of occurrences. A knife was the most commonly used weapon (43%), with axes, hammers and syringes also used to attack or threaten shop workers.

In 2019, the Co-op funded its own research into retail crime, with the hard-hitting findings reporting that shop workers were showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As mentioned, the Co-op has committed a further £70 million over the next three years in innovative technology to keep colleagues safer, introducing SmartWater fogging systems, the latest remotely-monitored CCTV, body-worn cameras and communication headsets for all front line colleagues.

Essential role

Cheryl Houghton, the Co-op’s retail security manager, informed Security Matters: “Shop workers play an essential role serving communities, yet they have to contend with unprecedented levels of violence and abuse on a daily basis. As a community retailer, we see the impact of social issues in our stores. I have never witnessed such high levels of violence and abuse. It’s a societal issue that all retailers are concerned about and it’s having lasting effects on the lives of shop workers, both mentally and physically.”

Further, Houghton asserted: “It’s not part of their job to be verbally abused, threatened or attacked and we’re determined to make sure it isn’t. We’re calling for greater protection for shop workers carrying out public duties and for the root causes of crime in communities to be addressed.”

Richie McBride, director of business operations for video and analytics at Motorola Solutions UK, added: “Body-worn video is becoming a critical element in commercial organisations’ strategy to keep their employees safe. As a company focused on mission-critical solutions, we provide our commercial customers with the right tools to help them enhance their operational efficiency, responsiveness and safety. We’re proud to partner with one of the UK’s largest retailers in its work to further improve the shopping experience and enhance safety for shoppers and staff alike.”