SOUTHERN Co-op is urging Hampshire residents to call on police and crime commissioner (PCC) candidates to crack-down on criminals.

This comes as the retail industry sees a rise in crime, with the chain urging shop workers and communities to write to PCC candidates and call on them to fully implement the commitments in the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Retail Crime Action Plan and ensure the new stand-alone offence of assault against a shopworker is enforced and progress is reported through their Police and Crime Plan.

Co-op colleagues and member-owners have campaigned for six years to call for change following unprecedented levels of retail crime, attacks and assaults, as criminals acted with impunity and seemingly free from fear of any consequences.

Andover Advertiser: Anti-social behaviour at a Co-op storeAnti-social behaviour at a Co-op store (Image: Southern Co-op)

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Last October saw the launch of NPCC’s Retail Crime Action plan, which outlined an intention to ensure police attendance at serious incidents and that all evidence is collected so that every reasonable line of enquiry is followed.

Then earlier this month (April 10) the Government announced plans to make assaulting a retail worker a standalone criminal offence in England and Wales – providing shop workers with protection.

Co-op believes this amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill will, if enforced, build on the advancements seen to address crime, violence and intimidation since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan.

Paul Gerrard, Co-op director of campaign and public affairs, said: “Retail crime impacts shopworkers both physically and mentally, with many communities blighted by the unacceptable levels of persistent and prolific offending.

Andover Advertiser: Paul GerrardPaul Gerrard (Image: Co-op)

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“Newly elected PCCs have the opportunity to crack-down on this crime through the implementation of the Retail Crime Action Plan and by enforcing the new standalone offence of assaulting a shopworker - we are calling on the next PCCs to deliver the protection that those working in retail and, serving communities in towns, villages and cities across the region deserve.”

Co-op has invested more than £200m over recent years in colleague and store safety and security.

This includes the latest interactive CCTV; body-worn cameras – which Co-op has used since 2019 to capture real time audio and visual footage at the touch of a button; the roll-out of fortified kiosks; use of dummy (or empty) packaging to deter bulk-theft and, covert (undercover) and non-covert guarding.