Co-op boss backs new police unit after security guard ‘threatened with knife’

A SECURITY boss has welcomed the creation of a new crime team to tackle “shocking violence and abuse” against shop workers. Gareth Lewis, loss prevention and security manager at Southern Co-op, said the launch of Sussex Police’s Business Crime Team (BCT) will help to “reassure” supermarket staff who fear they may be victims of crime. He said incidents of violence against supermarket staff have been “exacerbated by the pandemic”, with shop-floor staff having to enforce rules such as social distancing and wearing face masks.

Sussex Police’s Business Crime Team (BCT) will help to “reassure” supermarket staff who fear they may be victims of crime Gareth said: “One of our security guards was recently threatened with a knife and a violent shoplifter verbally abused and threatened store colleagues – fleeting moments, but terrifying moments that will stay with them for life. The effects upon the individual are devastating.

“All too often, what happens in our stores is echoed in the surrounding communities. “If we can work with Sussex Police in any capacity to tackle the causes of crime then this will also benefit the local neighbourhoods. Assistant Chief Constable Tanya Jones

“Working together and working co-operatively can only have a positive impact on everyone’s lives.” The BCT which is made up of nine investigators and a sergeant, will work with the business community and customers to bring together intelligence from across the county to catch criminals. Officers from the unit helped to bring prolific offender Mark Salter to justice, when he was arrested last month and charged with nine counts of shoplifting over the summer.

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Salter, 35, pleaded guilty to all the charges when he appeared at Crawley Magistrates’ Court and was ordered to undertake a drug rehabilitation programme, pay victim surcharge costs and community order costs.

Assistant Chief Constable Tanya Jones, who is part of the BCT, said: “Business Crime is not a victimless crime. Many places are small businesses, where the theft is very much felt, and shoplifters often come into contact with shop staff which has a real impact on them dealing with such offenders. “Shop employees are often faced with aggressive individuals, and they should not have to deal with such incidents during the course of their work.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Borne said she the team will be vital in tackling repeat offenders. She said: “This is what local businesses have been saying, this is exactly what is needed to identify prolific offenders and get them off our high streets to create a safer environment both for shoppers and retail workers.” Have you got a story for us?

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