By Kayleigh Platt, Store Manager, Tranmere Church Road
Our local area is known to have higher than average crime rates, so we were one of the first wave identified as a Safety Focus store.
Within the community there are a number of people who are drug users, or they’ve received anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) for being drunk and disorderly. They can often be verbally abusive to colleagues, but thankfully physical incidents are lower. Our most recent Talkback results showed that colleagues answered honestly, admitting they didn’t feel safe and wouldn’t recommend as a place to work due to the challenging backdrop.
Since becoming a Safety Focus store, we’ve received additional security measures including body worn cameras (BWCs). At first, the team were sceptical as they thought they were personally being monitored and watched, but the introduction and training videos on how to use the cameras helped dispel any fears. The BWC’s are so lightweight, it’s just like having a lanyard round your neck. They’ve become second nature to wear and the team have fully embraced using them when needed.
If a situation is making anyone feel like their safety is compromised, one push of a button activates the BWC, immediately connecting the colleague to the Mitie Security Operations Centre. The security team then watch and listen to the incident in real time along with everything being recorded. From a store perspective we then report everything on MySafety and to the police where we’re given an incident number. Mitie collate evidence on reoffending customers to help build a case against them which can be used by the police for prosecution matters. Along with the follow up courtesy calls received from both Mitie and Co-op to make sure everyone’s supported following an incident, the team morale has increased and everyone feels more comfortable when faced with difficult situations.
A lot of our customers are regulars, and we really get to know one another. On occasions when there’s a verbal altercation, some regular customers may have tried to get involved and calm things down. Obviously, they’re only trying to help but they were putting themselves at risk too. Now we have the BWCs, we simply let the offender know we’re going to start recording and it appears to prompt an immediate attitude change. Offenders aren’t comfortable knowing the situation is being captured and in around 90% of cases, they stand down.
One example was at 7.30am on a Friday morning. Two ladies were in store and one had a dog. I asked her to take it outside unless it was a guide dog, explaining if it was registered as a support dog, she could get a certificate to prove exceptional circumstances allowing the animal to be instore. She initially ignored me before becoming verbally abusive and leaving the store. Within minutes she returned albeit storming through the door with her phone in her hand, which she proceeded to shove in my face, announcing that she was filming me. I remained calm, making it clear I was going to activate my camera to capture the situation as she was impacting on my personal safety. I explained how I wanted the security team to watch what was unfolding including listening to the abuse she was giving me. This triggered something in her, as she suddenly withdrew her phone and they both left. We haven’t seen either of them since.
With the new kit, there’s been a real shift to prevention rather than reaction. It’s constantly about being one step ahead of the small number of people who cause trouble. Crucially, we now feel much more prepared and supported.
You can see the opinions of some of my colleagues about Body Worn Cameras in this short video: