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To fight crime, help police reduce your false call-outs: by collaborating with the police, retailers can find more effective solutions to ensure employees remain safe in the workplace.

The high street is the shop window of the economy. It indicates consumer buying trends and measures inflation to the point of influencing the Bank of England's decision on interest rates.

But it is also the forefront of crime, with store colleagues at the receiving end, according to statistics. The latest Kings College study indicates that knifepoint robberies have more than doubled in two years. Figures for 2006 from the British Retail Consortium indicated a 13% rise in reports of violent robbery in UK stores, and one in five small retailers say they will lose staff because of crime or antisocial behaviour. Statistics from Usdaw show that a shop worker somewhere in the UK is verbally abused or physically attacked each minute of every day.

This means shop workers are more likely to activate their personal alarms if they perceive risk, even if it doesn't escalate to an actual incident. As a result, overstretched police have introduced measures that reduce response to false alarm call-outs.

Some false alarm activations are attributed to faulty alarm equipment, but the majority result from incorrect use by employees. Under ACPO guidelines, more than one false call-out may result in the store losing its response for three months. This has historically been a cost, morally and financially, to retailers and the security industry. They have had to balance employee safety with additional expenditure--costing about 1,500 [pounds sterling] per site, even where only the panic attack system has lost police response.

Different interpretations of ACPO's guidelines between neighbouring forces are also a challenge. By working with ACPO to understand the issues, the Co-operative Group has been involved in an initiative with several po lice services to cut the number of false alarms and retain officer response.


A format was agreed with SSS Management Services and ACPO representative Ken Meanwell that allows the group to manage activations by only providing officers with evidence of genuine incidents using audio confirmation of the incident via the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). This listens to any activity in real time and allows direct communication with the shop assistant to see if help is needed.

The group's three-month trial via the SSS telephone line and monitoring system reduced false alarms and helped the group retain police response in every trial location. During the pilot, activations were filtered by the ARC so police only attended the four genuine incidents that took place--resulting in arrests.

This solution has educated colleagues in the correct usage of the panic button system, reduced false calls to the police and lowered capital costs for installation and upgrades.

This initiative should form the basis for closer work with the police and other retailers to explore further operational areas of mutual benefit. We want to extend this ACPO partnership across our group, but it has already begun to restore colleagues' confidence in the police at every site where the system has been installed.

Ken Meanwell recently praised the joint success of the trials, which should open the door for more discussions about other issues impacting retailers and the police. We believe there will be benefits for our colleagues and the police, who will be more confident that their time is not being wasted.

Philip Willsmer is operations manager, asset and profit protection, for the Cooperative Group
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Title Annotation:SATURDAY ESSAY
Comment:To fight crime, help police reduce your false call-outs: by collaborating with the police, retailers can find more effective solutions to ensure employees remain safe in the workplace.(SATURDAY ESSAY)
Author:Willsmer, Philip
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 8, 2007
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