By Garry Torrance, Store Manager, Camden Parkway
Part of the Safer Colleague Safer Communities programme is additional investment in the 150 stores that experience more crime related issues. These are our Safety Focus Stores where extra tools and technology are being used to deter crime and remove colleagues from harm’s way.
I moved to Camden Parkway store in summer 2020, shortly after it’d been identified as a Safety Focus Store. It’s in an area with a high proportion of hostels nearby and was almost viewed as an easy target. I knew there’d be some challenges as it quickly became apparent the same faces were often seen stealing from the store.
It’s difficult and dangerous to approach offenders to prevent them from entering. We’re told not to challenge people and the Safety Focus programme really reinforces this, relying on police support without putting colleagues directly at risk. On every occasion of a theft or an attempted theft, we log it on MySafety. We also report it to the police where a crime reference number is generated, hopefully resulting in prosecution. Recently however, especially as people are wearing facemasks, crimes were being dismissed by the police as they were finding it difficult to identify suspects. Through reporting everything on MySafety, it gives a true reflection of what happens in store, highlighting that extra help and attention may be needed – this is part of the information used to select the safety focus stores.
As I was relatively new, I was in the process of establishing my network of contacts across the business, so being invited to attend a briefing about what being a safety focus store meant was perfect timing. It gave me an opportunity to find out about new equipment, but also a chance to discuss things with the right people.
It inspired me to create an action plan which I displayed on the team notice board. It covers all of our agreed action points for things like training on using new equipment, what we need to achieve it and who’s responsible for making it happen. Safety is part of our everyday discussions, it’s on our agenda and we talk about it daily in our handover meetings. By having something down on paper, it helps the full team understand what we’re aiming for, keeping us collectively motivated to achieve the goals we’ve set and see progress made.
Everyone knows what’s required and we follow our action plan daily. We feel safer and it’s much better than it was before. We used to get harassed by customers but now they tend to walk away without any trouble once they see our security kit and body worn cameras. Some customers ask us about it and they feel safer as they can see we’re protected when we use the equipment.
Enio Ventura, Team Leader
It’s important to protect the stock but in my eyes, no stock is worth anyone’s wellbeing.
The full team were on board and our mentality changed to deterring incidents before they had chance to happen. New equipment had a real impact, especially the body worn cameras. These have been effective at diffusing potential situations simply by letting people know you’re going to start recording what’s happening. I’ve now established a strong relationship with the police, letting them know we’ve now got extra cctv footage available.
Criminals can be sneaky, often knowing the comings and goings in stores as they judge when’s the best time to target us. They also know thefts below certain monetary thresholds often mean prosecutions cannot occur. Despite these challenges, the team continued to record every incident, even the unsuccessful ones using ICCTV. Thanks to the partnership between Co-op and Mitie we know we have support to collate data on reoffending criminals.
I was really proud when our persistence was rewarded involving one of our most prolific offenders. Over a period of a couple of weeks, they targeted our store on multiple occasions, taking items including chocolate and wine to the value of approx. £800. I spoke to them, explaining the amount of information we’d gathered, all of which had been passed to the police. Since the conversation, they’ve not been seen in store in since February.
The team and I feel much safer knowing our approach is working and we’re starting to see positive results.