News 22 April 2021

Mitie and Co-op roll-out hand-held forensic spray to deter attacks on shopworkers and curb violent crime

Co-op is the first major supermarket to see Security Officers equipped with a new forensic spray designed to deter attacks on frontline shopworkers and curb rising levels of violent crime.

The move comes against a backdrop of rising levels of crime against shopworkers and will see Mitie Security Officers specially trained in the use of the handheld spray which contains a unique SmartWater® forensic signature.

Trials in South Yorkshire have already shown SmartTag™ to calm potentially violent incidents, and stop them from escalating.

The technology will be used by Mitie Security Officers in around 400 stores, and can be moved to different locations based on the latest intelligence. Only used in the most extreme circumstances, Security Officers can spray violent offenders with SmartWater® which provides evidence for the police to act on later.

Detective Superintendent Lee Berry, who launched a pilot with Security Officers with South Yorkshire Police, said:

“Our aim was to create a deterrent for door staff to diffuse violent incidents before they escalated. Over 100 canisters were deployed across the county following a successful trial in Sheffield. We received great feedback from security staff who said they had diffused situations by warning those involved that they would be forensically marked.”

Andrew Needham, Co-op Head of Retail Loss and Security, said:

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our colleagues who work tirelessly to serve communities. No one should have to face violence just for doing their job, and we are doing everything we can to protect them. As a community retailer we see the impact of social issues in our stores, and alongside the latest technology the root causes of crime in communities must also be addressed – that is why we are calling for Government to introduce greater protection for shop workers with stiffer penalties for those convicted to send out a clear message that violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour is not acceptable.”

Jason Towse, Managing Director, Business Services, Mitie, said:

“Ensuring the safety of everyone in store has always been our priority, even more so in the context of COVID-19. We continue to invest in new technology, such as SmartTag, that can act as a deterrent and support the Police in their investigations, helping to keep our officers, shop workers and local communities safe.”

Before the Security Officers are equipped with SmartTag, they must participate in a special training course, Gary Higgins, COO of SmartWater Technology, said: 

“We have sought the advice of both the police and top legal teams, creating a training module that ensures the staff know the correct way to use SmartTag. It proved to be a powerful deterrent in South Yorkshire, and we’re delighted that Mitie and the Co-op have taken the initiative to be the first supermarket to roll-out the technology.”

SmartWater is the only forensic product of its type that is compliant with the requirements of the Government’s Forensic Science Regulator and, unlike non-compliant products, is admissible as evidence in Court. This year will also see Co-op more than double the number of stores where colleagues wear body-worn cameras. Over 550 stores are expected to use the technology which can send real-time audio and visual footage to Mitie’s Security Operation Centre at the push of a button.

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