‘Our colleagues do not come to work to be abused’ - tough message from campaign tackling abuse of shop staff

Scott Walker, anti-social behaviour officer for the East of England Co-op. Photo: Nadene Chandler

Scott Walker, anti-social behaviour officer for the East of England Co-op. Photo: Nadene Chandler - Credit: Archant

The extent of abuse shop staff have to deal with has been revealed by the East of England Co-op's anti-social behaviour as part of a hard-hitting campaign.

The freedom from fear event. Photo: Nadene Chandler

The freedom from fear event. Photo: Nadene Chandler - Credit: Archant

Speaking at a roadshow in Norwich, Scott Walker, said: 'In one of our central Norwich stores, over the course of a week, we had a persistent problem with a male who was always heavily intoxicated, he was begging off customers as they were leaving the store, and when he was asked to move on, he was very threatening and abusive towards staff.

'Over the course of that week, his behaviour escalated and we were dispatched to the store. What we did in that case was support the staff, get details of the customers to pass onto the police in case they needed witness information, but we were also able to eject him from the store each time he came. He was then served a banning notice.'

The Co-op's anti-social behaviour campaign, Freedom From Fear partnered with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers took to Norwich to tackle anti-social behaviour in local community stores.

Mr Walker said: 'We deal with anything, including verbal abuse, boy racers, street drinkers, sexual harassment and armed robberies. I've dealt with around 5,000 incidents since this scheme started about five years ago.

'Victims of anti-social behaviour can be left very distressed from the experience. The work we do helps colleagues adversely affected by these incidents return to work, reassured by the measures taken to tackle unwanted behaviour.

'I do a lot of work with youth offenders and run a rehabilitation programme at the Co-op. As part of their sentencing, for crimes committed in Co-op stores, youth offenders are offered the opportunity to spend a day with me. I'll take them to the scene of the crime, introduce them to the staff that were affected, explain the costs involved in fixing the problem, the people involved in fixing it and then take them to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), where a team monitor activity and receive alerts with state of the art software and an experienced incident management team.'

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Lee Hammond, head of security at East of England Co-op, said: 'We are aiming to reduce the number of incidents in our stores, ensuring colleagues and customers can work and shop in a safe, friendly environment.'