Hampshire police chief defends Co-op accusation that officers only attended ‘two out of three’ offences

A HAMPSHIRE police chief inspector has defended claims from the Co-op store chain that police officers did not attend ‘two out of three times’ when staff contacted the police over offences.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 10:06 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 2:42 pm

Addressing the Home Affairs Committee, Co-op public affairs and campaigns director Paul Gerrard said this was despite the fact the supermarket only generally reported the most serious offences.

Asked by committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper if he thought the figure was accurate, Chief Insp Patrick Holdaway of Hampshire police, said: ‘It’s very difficult to get an accurate level of data, and it will reflect differently across different forces.

‘When a call comes in, the control room will make an assessment on the facts they’ve been given. So the first challenge is that we’ll be making sure that the retailer gives the right level of information that will help elicit a police response if it’s required.’

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Co-op on Copnor Road. One of the stores which fitted facial recognition cameras to help deal with increasing levels of crime. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Mr Holdaway added: ‘If an offence has taken place and the offender has left and we can capture that data at a later time then the police force may look at it and decide to send a police resource or look to deal with it in a different way without an immediate deployment.’

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Consensus amongst police chiefs was a lack of resources resulting in regional forces, including Hampshire, having to make difficult decisions about where best to deploy officers.

Gwent Police Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: ‘We do our very best to try and ensure we get to the calls where we’re needed where there’s threat, where there’s harm, where there’s risk to individuals, but if that person has left the store and there isn’t anyone available to send, sometimes these are being dealt with either later in the evening or the next day.’

Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway (right) has been defending accusations from the Co-op that police officers didn't attend reported offences on two out of three occasions.

Mr Gerrard had earlier told the committee that the retailer had stepped up its efforts to protect colleagues as the problem continued to escalate during the Covid-19 crisis.

He told the committee, which is gathering evidence in response to calls for action, that the group has spent £140 million over the past six years to keep colleagues safe - ‘twice the sector average.’

He said attacks were on the rise even before the pandemic, with the group now seeing 10 attacks on workers each day, five involving a weapon, and an increase in racism, homophobia, misogyny and the weaponising of Covid-19, with colleagues spat on.

To tackle the problem, Southern Co-op recently fitted live facial recognition cameras in 18 of its Portsmouth stores.

Cameras take biometric scans of shoppers when they walk in, checking it against a watchlist drawn together by the chain and private firm Facewatch.

Images taken by Co-op are used to detect shoplifters and people involved in anti-social behaviour, and can be used to help enforce bans.

The Southern Co-op said it was using the technology in shops ‘where there is a higher level of crime’.

Hampshire Police previously told The News the supermarket chain was heavily targeted in the city, including in the first national lockdown where violent shoplifting crimes increased.

Other responses taken by the Co-op include hiring guards, changing store layouts, giving staff headsets so they can stay connected to each other and fitting them with bodycams as a deterrent.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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