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“Thanks a latte” for fighting crime: Waitrose to tackle retail crime by offering free hot drinks to on-duty officers

As they work tirelessly to fight crime, the Thin Blue Line might have need for a skinny flat white.

Waitrose and John Lewis have started offering free hot drinks and discounted food to on-duty police officers who visit their shops in a bid to cut shoplifting and violence against staff. They hope that tempting uniformed officers — who, crucially, park their branded vehicles outside — will deter thieves just as drivers slow down on a motorway as soon as they spot a police car.

The chain has dubbed the initiative “thanks a latte”.

John Lewis Partnership, which owns the upmarket brands, has written to the Police Federation to say officers, including police community support officers, can get free hot drinks at Waitrose coffee machines if they bring a reusable cup. In John Lewis stores, they can use the staff’s subsidised canteen, where hot meals cost between £2 and £3, and use quiet staff seating areas and bathrooms “as part of efforts to strengthen relationships and tackle retail crime”.

About 850 incidents of violence or abuse against shop workers are recorded every day in Britain, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), while assaults on employees in Waitrose shops have roughly doubled since 2020. John Lewis said it had already increased the number of guards and “security-trained” staff, improved CCTV and rolled out body-worn cameras to staff who wish to wear one.

Nicki Juniper, the head of security for John Lewis Partnership, said: “Offering these perks is a win-win. The police already work incredibly hard so will have more options to take a break, while also building even better relationships with our frontline teams. Just having a police car parked outside can make people think twice about shoplifting from our branches.”

Juniper said the rise in thefts was not driven by a need to put food on the table but by “professional shoplifters stealing for greed”.

Dame Sharon White, the chairwoman of John Lewis Partnership, said shop thefts had become “an epidemic”.

The number of shoplifting incidents has risen from 1.6 million in 2013 to 7.9 million last year, while the value of the thefts has risen from £265 million to £953 million in a decade, according to the BRC.

(Source: The Sunday Times)

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