Ground-breaking partnership between Police and Co-op catches prolific offenders

24/03/2021

A ground-breaking new partnership between Sussex Police and The Co-op has already brought about the arrest of five prolific offenders, it has been announced today (Wednesday 24 March).

A pilot, that makes the reporting of business crime easier, is being trialled by Sussex Police in conjunction with National Business Crime Solution (NBCS) and Co-op, a supermarket which is campaigning and working for greater safety and protection for frontline shopworkers and communities.

The initiative launched in November 2020 after Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne conducted a survey of 100 local businesses which revealed that as few as eight per cent of offences are reported to the police.

The ‘One Touch Reporting’ pilot is working initially with 22 Co-op stores to develop new ways to simplify reporting processes, deliver greater intelligence, identify trends and reduce the impact of repeat offenders in communities. 

As a result, Sussex Police are seeing a threefold increase in reports, with the additional information and intelligence gathered resulting in the arrest of five prolific offenders. 

PCC Katy Bourne chairs the Sussex Safer Business Partnership (SSBP) bringing together retailers, newsagents, pharmacists and business groups with the police to shine a light on issues and to identify solutions. Once the pilot is successfully completed, Mrs Bourne would eventually like to see this shared with all local businesses and, ultimately, adopted nationally.

Phase two, which is expected to start next month, will enable Sussex Police to reduce the time it spends on the reporting process from 20/30 minutes to just a few minutes to record each crime and identify those requiring further investigation and enforcement.

Katy Bourne says: “This new reporting system is a welcome and bold move by Sussex Police. It is also an example of how effective partnership working can lead to proactive solutions for businesses with robust action taken against offenders. It will no doubt result in an increase in crime reports locally and I do not shy away from this. We need to paint a clearer picture of business crime and, once we have the evidence, it then cannot be ignored. It’s never the value of the goods being stolen that should be the only reason to respond. The impact upon our business community and our frontline shopworkers must be understood and acted on more effectively, especially as offenders are almost certainly committing offences elsewhere. In Sussex we are determined to show offenders that they will be held to account for their actions and to demonstrate to the public that we take these crimes seriously.”

Peter Batt, Divisional Managing Director for Co-op, said: “There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our colleagues - no one should have to face violence and abuse just for doing their job. It has a lasting impact not only physically, but also on their mental well-being. By working together, we are all seeing better outcomes. Police have now attributed the arrest of five prolific local offenders to the success of this scheme so far, reducing the impact that repeat offenders have in our communities. Alongside this, we continue to call for Government to show that it is listening and to introduce greater protection for shopworkers with stiffer sentencing sending out a clear message that violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour is just not acceptable.”

Peter Fisher, General Manager of the National Business Crime Solution says: “This trial proves that accurate volume crime reporting can be achieved for the benefit of both business and the Police without complex structural changes and unnecessary costs. It also demonstrates the strength of collaboration in terms of data sharing. We are determined to work in partnership to reduce the productivity costs of reporting crime while increasing the quality of the data reported to enhance the opportunity for better outcomes. Our vision is to be able to facilitate one touch reporting for all businesses nationally. If successful, we believe this will be one of the most transformational changes our sector has ever seen.”

Police have attributed the arrest of five prolific local offenders to the success of this scheme so far. 39-year old Chris Way from Worthing West Sussex is one of these offenders. On March 15 he was committed to prison for thirty-six weeks for his persistent shoplifting in the local community and for his breach of a community order and electronically monitored curfew.

Business Crime Lead for Sussex Police, Chris Neilson comments: “We are keen to raise confidence among businesses by improving the way they engage with us and can report crimes in ways that work for them. The Force’s introduction of six business crime investigators has made a major difference to this level of confidence. Having an accurate picture of the crimes affecting businesses is vital and means we as a force can respond more effectively, especially in the way we target repeat offenders. In particular we want to focus on bringing to justice those who believe they can use threats and violence against shopworkers.”

Before the pilot was introduced, a member of staff would submit an internal report, then report to the police via 101 or online and, may also have to file a separate report if the store is part of a local Business Crime Reduction Partnership. Now, they simply input all the information once into their internal reporting system. This is then automatically fed into the NBCS ‘iNTEL ONE’ platform, triaged and sent swiftly to the police to generate a crime report.  

Emma, 34: Co-op Store Manager, West Sussex:

“I have worked for Co-op for over 10 years and I have never seen crime and abuse as bad as it is now – it really has got worse, especially over the last five or six years and offenders seem to  target stores in the community without any concern for the consequences. Being involved in the new trial has massively helped – it has made it easier for all of us in store. We just fill in one form, it is easier and saves time that we can focus on running the store and serving our customers. Crime can be terrifying, and the way some people look or shout at you is very intimidating – they don’t see our role as important, we are just shopworkers, it is as if we don’t have feelings. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of customers are wonderful – often on first name terms, they value the role of a local store in the community. They too would like to see stiffer penalties for those that abuse and attack frontline shopworkers who are doing their best to serve them. I know of colleagues who have been coughed on, threatened with needles, pushed, shoved, shouted and sworn at – it becomes almost normal, a daily occurrence – but that’s not right, is it? It should not be acceptable; it should not be part of the job. You don’t know what the next person through the door is going to do and so the impact is not only physical, but it impacts mental health and wellbeing too. The trial has been a great success, we are seeing the results and it makes a difference – the support is fantastic, it feels like we are really making a difference. Making life safer for our colleagues, and the wider community.”