The Co-op has announced plans to install more than 200 secure till kiosks, locked cabinets for spirits and AI technology to monitor self-checkouts in a bid to tackle a surge in retail crime.
It comes as the convenience chain reported shoplifting incidents in its stores had rocketed 48% last year, while abuse and harassment cases had surged 44%.
Co-op has spent £200m on new security measures, including additional guards and undercover teams for crime hotspots, The Guardian reported.
The retailer said its undercover security guards had detained 3,361 individuals across its more than 2,400 store estate last year for a range of offences including burglary, abuse and harassment.
Co-op food managing director Matt Hood said: “This is not a few opportunistic shoplifters becoming more prolific. This is organised crime and looting.”
Hood said that staff face as many as two or three incidents a week of thieves jumping the till counter to steal alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets in some stores.
He explained that the particular stores were rendered unprofitable until new security measures including reinforced till kiosks with secure doors were introduced.
Hood said the convenience chain was not using facial recognition systems, unlike other major supermarkets.
The Co-op food boss has been vocal about calling for the government to make changes in the law to protect shop workers as abuse and physical attacks.
Hood said: “People who are really organised can only be stopped by custodial sentences and the police. We need it to have consequences.
“The thing that concerns me more than anything is that we have colleagues who won’t bother to report [incidents] as they know they are not going to get a reaction.
“If you have detained somebody that has committed a crime and the police don’t turn up, you have to let them go.
“You can imagine how demotivating that is for people working in the shop and how motivating [it is] for shoplifters.”