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Co-op bosses have said shoplifting is causing anarchy at its stores and staff are experiencing horrifying violence, with looters pulling out syringes and knives on them.
The chain – which has seen losses of £33million to shoplifting alone this year – has witnessed a 41 per cent rise in incidents of stealing in the first eight months of the year compared to the last, MailOnline revealed earlier this week.
Because of this detrimental rise, the company expects to lose more than £70million in shoplifting losses, the retailer’s head of food Matt Hood said today.
Paul Gerrard, the chain’s campaigns and public affairs director, said the number of cases of violence being used against staff had also increased by 25 per cent.
The chain recently revealed it had invested in undercover security guards who perform citizen’s arrests on thieves.
Pictured are looters caught on CCTV stealing from a Co-Op
The chain has been targeted by shoplifters, it has since released footage of CCTV catching them in the act
Pictured is a prolific shoplifter caught stealing food items at a Co-Op
But Mr Gerrard – who used to work in law enforcement – today admitted that in the majority of cases they had to be let go because officers never turn up.
‘These are highly trained expert guards – often ex-police and ex-forces – who work undercover in stores where there’s a particular problem,’ he told MailOnline.
A Co-Op worker was even bottled by a shoplifter while she was on shift.
Charlene Corbin, 28, shared pictures of her gruesome head wound to highlight the danger retailers face from increasingly brazen and violent thieves. She is not the only one to have been subjected to such horrors.
Mr Gerrard said: ‘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.’
The dramatic increase in attacks on stores has sparked a nationwide call for police forces to act tougher and more efficiently to crack down on shoplifting.
A coalition of industry leaders have written to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales calling on forces to make it easier to pass on evidence and boost efforts to find repeat and violent offenders.
Currently, officers will not attend where the value of items stolen is under £200, while retailers say even violent attacks on innocent staff are being ignored.
The John Lewis Partnership recently revealed it is facing a £12million jump in the cost of shoplifting as bosses at the retail giant blamed a surge in organised crime.
And Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, told MailOnline of staff have been attacked by shoplifters with hypodermic needles.
Team leader Charlene Corbin was bottled by a shoplifter at the Co-op where she works
Co-op has previously released footage of its staff grappling with shoplifters in stores
Staff at other chains have been punched, bottled and stabbed by thieves – who store security experts say are increasingly operating in organised criminal gangs.
Matt Hood, managing director at Co-Op Food, said: ‘A rise in shop looting and retail crime perpetuated by repeat, prolific offenders and organised crime gangs is becoming genuinely one of the most significant issues facing U.K. communities.
‘One of the things that makes me most angry is those that claim this is a victimless crime – it is fundamentally not, as my store colleagues who have been verbally abused, or have had knives or syringes pulled on them, can all vouch for, he added.
Police attended around two in ten thefts, Mr Hood said, meaning that most alleged shoplifters have to be let go without consequence.
Kate Graham, operations director at Co-op Food, echoed concerns over the increasing shoplifting and said that the lack of consequences for offenders was creating ‘anarchy’ in the aisles.
She added that crime was rising even in areas which had not previously had problems and that Co-op had been security tagging a greater number of products.
‘What we are seeing is blatant looting,’ she told BBC Radio Scotland. ‘People just coming in with a large bag and taking what they want because they are recognising the lack of consequences.’
Ms Graham said that shoplifting had become ‘prolific’ and that offenders were ‘stealing to order.’
Meanwhile John Lewis chair Sharon White recently described the spate in shoplifting as an ‘epidemic’.
He continued: ‘We are running at about a thousand incidents of shoplifting a day across our two and a half thousand stores.
‘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.
‘This isn’t just a bit of pushing and shoving – it’s serious violence leading to broken bones.
‘What’s behind the increase isn’t opportunism. The majority of the rise is down to gangs and individuals who are targeting our stores to steal large volumes of products.’