Colston Davidge, Store Manager, Westbury – Bristol
We see all types of crime here in Westbury-on-Trym. Everything from prolific shoplifting, to customers swiping stuff at the ASTs and sometimes even physical and verbal abuse. Some days are worse than others, but my team constantly feel anxious and apprehensive.
We’re a close team, so if something happens on one day, it gets talked about for days after. Tensions are heightened and they’re always on guard.
We’re one of the most challenging stores in our estate and I put that down to the local area. Whilst we’re in a picturesque West Country suburb, life on the high street is a lot different. There’s lots of problems with drug and alcohol abuse in the city and we have a lot of shoplifters that come and target our village. That also means those that do can become quite aggressive when we ask them what they’re doing.
Earlier this year we became a safety focus store. As part of the Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign we’ve been chosen to trial and showcase all the new tech and equipment to see what bits make a difference. Given we get a lot of shoplifters we’ve had lots of defensive merchandising installed. We already had the intelligent CCTV but now we have protective packaging on high value items like steak and baby milk and SmartWater sprays and fog cannons over the kiosk and cigarette gantry.
We’ve also had the body cameras installed too. I can speak from personal experience that just having a body cam there makes me feel so much safer. Just knowing I have it to hand it gives me the confidence that whatever happens is recorded for evidence. People notice it too, it stops stuff from even happening in the first place.
But it’s not just the equipment that’s made a difference to us here in Westbury. What’s really helped is developing a long-term relationship with our local PCSO and our current local cause ‘Crimestoppers in the West Country’.
The relationship I’ve developed with the PCSO means I know there’s always someone of the other end of the phone to help and support the team when we have our bad days. We’ve also raised funds in store for Crimestoppers, on top of the £600 we’ve already raised through membership. Their aim is to give people the power to speak up anonymously about crime and the money we raised went towards leaflets and books for the local schools to educate them on crime in the area. We’re hoping to get some visits into the schools too once they start to reopen.
That’s what’s great about working at the Co-op. We don’t just see the value in designing out crime from our shops but also the value that long-term relationships in the local community can have too.