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Retail crims: ready to say ‘cheese’

Countdown Masterton has ramped up its security to combat the rise in crime and abuse that supermarket workers have been subject to nationwide.

Woolworths New Zealand recently rolled out body cameras to staff at all its 191 outlets as part of a $45 million investment programme to support instore safety and de-escalate conflict.

Woolworths spokesperson Ally Orr couldn’t provide a breakdown of specific safety initiatives that are already in place or planned for the chain’s Wairarapa stores due to their “nature as security measures” and was also unable to give a breakdown of incidents in the region.

However, according to Woolworths, the grocery chain has seen a 75 per cent nationwide increase in physical assaults and a 148 per cent increase in serious reportable events over the past three years.

Stores trialling team safety cameras have reported positive results from the initiative, with de-escalations in conflict and customer abuse.

The retailer is also continuing to progress with other security and safety measures, including anti-sweep shelves, push-to-talk radios, and trolley lock systems, which are now in 50 stores.

Woolworths NZ director of stores Jason Stockill said although it is troubling that stricter measures have had to be taken, it is “heartening” to see positive results from increased security and safety efforts.

“Our team deserves to feel safe coming to work every day, and what they’re dealing with is unacceptable,” he said.

“Every day, our team across the country are still experiencing instances of abuse and aggression from shoplifters and other offenders.

“Team members who have trialled using team safety cameras told me they feel much safer knowing that they have a tool to record abuse or conflict when it arises.

“And often turning the camera on actually de-escalates the situation completely, which is fantastic.”

Team members only activate the cameras in the event of a security incident and must notify customers before recording.

Footage is released only when requested by police as part of an investigation.

A spokesperson for Foodstuffs [which includes New World, Pak n’ Save, and Four Square] said the company doesn’t have any specific information about Wairarapa either, but noted that while Foodstuffs North Island is trailing facial recognition technology, Wairarapa stores are not participating.

Earlier this year, Foodstuffs North Island started trialling the technology in 25 stores to better identify repeat offenders who were banned.

“Repeat offenders are responsible for around one-third of all incidents,” the spokesperson said.

“These are hardened offenders who repeatedly target retailers, even if they’ve previously been banned and who think nothing of walking out without paying for goods and then get aggressive if confronted.

“The aim is to learn if facial recognition can improve the safety of our team members while respecting the privacy of our customers and team members.

“The trial follows 4719 incidents of retail crime reported across Foodstuffs North stores in the last quarter of 2023, including 513 breaches of trespass – up 52 per cent on the previous quarter.”

The spokesperson said it is a sad reality that supermarkets are on the frontline of the rising trend of retail crime.

Foodstuffs team members also reported instances of assaults – including being stabbed, punched, kicked, bitten, and spat at – as well as aggression and theft.

“The safety of our teams and customers is extremely important to us – everyone should be able to come to work and feel safe.”

The Foodstuffs spokesperson added that its stores are individually owned and operated, which means measures to help manage in-store crime varies from store to store.

“We’re always looking at ways to make our stores safer, and we have robust strategies in place.”

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