FEATURE: Staff at Northampton's convenience store reveal trauma of daily experiences with store crime
'We had bouts of almost daily antisocial behaviour from people stealing, assaulting and abusing staff and customers.
“There were two burglaries within 12 months and an armed robbery. This was all on top of the usual theft retail stores have to contend with.
“We lost a lot of staff because they simply didn’t feel safe.”
This is the view of Matthew Joyce, who worked in the Old Duston Co-op branch for five years and Kingsley Park Terrace store for four months. He said he loved his time at work but crime in convenience shops across Northampton and the wider county is, unfortunately, “nothing new”, he said.
Clearly, the violent crime is not only affecting Co-op branches in Northamptonshire but the firm has a higher number of stores than other companies.
Shop workers, past and present, from convenience stores across Northampton have contacted the Chron to reveal the near daily instances of crime that staff have to face.
Dawn Reichhart, said staff in her store, which she hasn’t named, have been threatened with stabbings and have sustained injuries as well.
“It’s not [the] staff’s responsibility to confront them. I certainly wouldn’t, [we] don’t get paid enough and I want to go home at the end of the day,” she added.
Leanne Norris said the cashier at her local shop in Northampton was stabbed in the hand.
Just recently on April 27, a man riding a silver BMW motorbike mounted the pavement and attempted to ride into the Co-Op in Main Road, Duston at about 10.20am.
A shop staff member was in the doorway, which prevented the offender from entering the shop but he threatened the shop worker and demanded money. However, this was refused and he drove off.
Police are taking the crimes seriously – as successful prosecutions show. And there are some measures they have suggested, including significant crime prevention advice to help improve the security of the stores, safety of staff and customers and the prevention of offences.
Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd said: “We currently work closely with Co-ops across the county and will continue to do so. We have offered significant crime prevention advice to help improve the security of the stores, safety of staff and customers and the prevention of offences.
“We routinely issue CCTV images and appeals of robberies and shoplifting offences which can often lead to identifying those responsible.
“We have also had successful prosecutions where detectives have built strong cases against organised gangs resulting in significant prison sentences.
“We would encourage anyone who has been a victim of crime to report it to us,” she added.
The Co-Op says it is working closely with the police and says a number of measures have been introduced to improve store security.
A spokesman for the Co-op, said: “Safety and security is of the utmost importance and we work closely with the police and other crime prevention bodies to implement a range of security measures designed to deter criminal activity and increase the likelihood of convictions.
“This includes use of security patrols, CCTV and lighting, smoke cloaks and, we are working with SmartWater to install a forensic dispersal technology to ensure that criminals and stolen cash is marked with a unique forensic signature, increasing the risk to criminals of being tracked and traced by police.”
Looking through the archives of the Chron, there have been at least 15 witness appeals issued by police in Northamptonshire relating to Co-Op stores in the past year, along with examples of stores belonging to other retailers and independent firms being targeted.
But one store that has been through the mill in recent times is the Co-op in Kingsley Park Terrace.
The supermarket on Kettering Road will shut up shop due to an expired lease on Saturday, June 10. However sources in the community have claimed the shop was closing due to loss in profits due to a spate of thefts.
There are currently 19 full and part-time colleagues at the store whose jobs are at risk.
One person, who did not want to be named, said the team got a Whatsapp message that they had to attend a meeting at 10am on Tuesday morning.
They claimed they were told the shop was closing but the manager assigned was unable to give a clear reason why. Staff, however, speculate that the criminals have forced the store into a loss-making position.
“It would be a profit making shop, but shoplifters were taking meat, chocolate, alcohol and deodorant, blatantly and not discretely.
“They take big holdall bags then empty the shelves.”
Another worker said: “Staff have had syringes stuck at them, they are losing unbelievable amounts of money through theft. Staff have asked for security in there but it’s been refused.”
Another member of the public said the police should take more action against shoplifters.
She said: “I’m sure there have been a lot more crimes.
“Every time I walk into my local store [I seem to see a theft].
“I really wish the police would do something about this, it’s become a joke.”
The impact on staff, who are sometimes thankful to arrive home from work from a till job without seeing a serious crime is terrible. But the impact will be felt on communities if, as in Kingsley Park Terrace, Co-ops start to close.
The staff worker said: “They have loads of elderly people who use the Co-op because they find other supermarkets intimidating with the self-service check-out. The elderly generation was brought up with the Co-op.”
Losing these most community-orientated stores from our high streets would be letting the criminals win – and letting some of Northampton’s most loyal and friendly staff down.