Britain’s Wild West shopping: Now John Lewis staff are forced to wear bodycams to tackle rise in violence and shoplifting
- Criminal gangs are targeting retailers such as John Lewis as thefts surge
Staff at John Lewis are having to resort to wearing body-worn cameras due to the rise in violence and shoplifting.
The retailer is being targeted by organised criminal gangs with alcohol, perfumes, cosmetics and meat among the most stolen items.
Shoplifting has soared by 26 per cent in the past year, with major chains including John Lewis, Asda and the Co-op targeted by criminal gangs. In March, police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland recorded nearly 33,000 incidents.
Many of the stores blame police for the surge in the disturbing crimes as families struggle amid the cost of living crisis.
Footage from a bodycam obtained by BBC News shows a John Lewis employee being verbally abused, with the person swearing and shouting at them.
Chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores James Lowman said 70% of staff had been verbally abused whilst doing their job
READ MORE: Video catches youngsters stealing sweets and vapes from shop costing owner £1,500 a month
Adrian Palmer, who works in John Lewis’ Cardiff store said violent interactions were almost becoming a daily occurrence.
He added that shoplifters were becoming increasingly brazen with one person bringing a black bag into the store, filling it with goods, and attempting to leave.
Fortunately, there was a Police Community Support Officer at the store during this incident and the perpetrator was detained.
Head of security at John Lewis Nicki Juniper told the BBC it is ‘investing heavily in training’ to help deter shoplifters and prevent situations from escalating.
The Co-op, meanwhile, says the level of ‘out-of-control crime’ saw one inner-city London store ‘looted’ three times in just 24 hours.
It warned the onslaught was unsustainable and could see some communities become a no-go area for local stores.
Staff at John Lewis are having to resort to wearing body-worn cameras due to the rise in violence and shoplifting
Closed Circuit Television in all Co-op stores mean that frightening scenes are captured on film
The footage showed gangs of yobs running wild in shops unchecked by any police presence
Other stores have also spoken out against the appalling treatment of its shops and staff. One Co-op outlet was raided three times on the same day, while others have been hit as many as 50 times.
Staff have described armed thugs flashing screwdrivers or knives at them, and gangs smashing through doors.
READ MORE: Shoplifting gangs given ‘freedom to loot’ by lax policing has left staff living under a reign of terror from armed thugs with almost 1,000 incidents a day
Thieves typically target store kiosk areas – which have high-value cigarettes – and alcohol aisles.
However, items including meat, coffee, and even baby formula and nappies are in their sights.
The Co-op warns that the situation has become so bad, it may have to shut stores in some areas.
The John Lewis Partnership (JLP), which owns Waitrose, said it was seeing ‘rising numbers of shoplifting offences – often by organised gangs as well as anti-social behaviour’.
Waitrose, which is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, has adopted a new tactic of ‘love-bombing’ customers in a bid to combat spiralling shoplifting.
The supermarket claims that being extra attentive and friendly to customers, including at self-service checkouts, is proving to be an effective deterrent.
Ms Juniper said this had proven ‘very successful’ in reducing the number of thefts but added that prolific offenders need to face consequences.
One gang carried out a crime wave in west London, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset, between 14 November 2021 and 19 August 2022. Here, they smashed a stolen Range Rover into a Co-op store in Poole, Dorset
A survey by the BRC says 56 per cent of retailers rated the police response to shoplifting as ‘fair’, with others declaring it even worse.
READ MORE: Shoplifting epidemic that has turned Britain’s High Street stores into battlefields
The Home Office has said: ‘We recognise the impact that theft can have on retailers which is why we are supporting police by providing funding for crime prevention means.’
Chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores James Lowman said 70% of staff had been verbally abused whilst doing their job.
He added that focusing on repeat offenders could being ‘real benefits’ to the retail sector and the community.
Conservative MP James Sunderland, has previously said: ‘Targeted shoplifting through organised retail crime is clearly on the rise.
‘Gangs appear to be operating with impunity…there have been instances of violence to staff when they attempt to intervene, not just at Waitrose but all supermarkets.’
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