Co-op is extending its trial of anti-theft, empty, ‘dummy display packaging’ for targeted products on its shelves to deter rising levels of crime driven by prolific and persistent offenders. 

The move is designed to help curb bulk-shoplifting – described as ‘looting’ in the worst instances. 

Industry reports* show that almost two-thirds (63%) of crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders, with drug or alcohol addictions and, local organised criminal gangs, among the main drivers of offending. 

The empty packaging will be used across higher value products on its shelves frequently targeted by criminals for re-sale, in stores where there is a local issue. 

Products include: coffee; higher-value chocolates, washing powder and laundry gels, with shoppers simply taking the dummy display case to the till where it is exchanged for the actual product. Co-op has previously used the anti-theft packaging in a limited number of stores, and expects it to ‘continue to become a more familiar feature in retailing’. 

Co-op previously revealed it had seen record levels of crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour with almost 1,000 incidents each day in the six months to June (2023) – a 35% YOY increase. 

The convenience retailer also warned that this level of out-of-control, ‘consequence-less’ crime is unsustainable and could even see some communities become a no-go area for local stores, with many Police forces not prioritising retail crime. 

A freedom of information (FOI) request revealed on average, 71% of serious retail crime is not responded to by Police, and Co-op is calling on all police forces and crime commissioners to target prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs to reverse the existing environment where they operate without fear of being caught or charged. 

Kate Graham, Director of Operations, Co-op, said: “Crime in many communities is increasing, and it is known that repeat and prolific offenders and, local organised criminal gangs are driving serious incidents of brazen and violent theft in stores. 

“It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and often a flashpoint for attacks and abuse towards our colleagues. Co-op continues to invest significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe. This includes extending our use of dummy display cases to deter the incidents of ‘bulk-shoplifting’ or, ‘looting’, as it has been described, where criminals sweep products off shelves for re-sale. 

“While we are doing all we can, we also need the police to play their part as too often, Forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams and criminals operate in communities without any fear of consequences.” 

Co-op has invested more than £200M in recent years in colleague and community safety to counter criminal behaviour – per store this equates to four times the average convenience sector spend on security and safety measures. 

With safety a key priority, the convenience retailer uses a wide range of targeted measures to deter criminal behaviour.

This includes: interactive and remote monitored CCTV;

body-worn cameras – which can send real time audio and visual footage to its security operations centre at the touch of a button;

communication headsets for frontline colleagues; covert and non-covert guarding;

Smartwater and, GPS tracked security cases, along with the anti-theft ‘dummy display cases’ which Co-op believes will continue to become a more familiar feature in retailing.