East of England Co-op’s security business picking up a growing number of clients
- Credit: Ashley Pickering/Anglia Picture
Co-op Secure Response has already more than doubled its turnover for the whole of last year.
Within the corridors of the East of England Co-op’s head office at Wherstead Park near Ipswich, there’s a reinforced steel door.
Open it and you’ll find another steel door, behind which is located the company’s Alarm Receiving Centre - the ARC for short.
Here, staff work on multiple computer screens - logging calls, monitoring CCTV cameras and providing security support for the business’ 100-plus food stores across the region as well as its other offices and outlets.
According to Lee Hammond - head of the Co-Op Secure Response unit - the incidents being reported on incoming calls might differ in severity from staff dealing with anti-social behaviour and shoplifting to low level happenings such as lost property and alarms warning that a freezer has lost power - a problem that could potentially result in the company “writing off thousands of pounds worth of stock.”
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The Co-op Secure Response business was launched in 2014 as an internal unit looking after the East of England Co-op’s estate but over time it has picked up external clients. Today the ARC monitors around 5,000 cameras belonging to the East of England Co-op and the same number of cameras for other clients including Scotmid and Central England Co-operatives.
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The centre also provides security for solar farms across the UK, which might get targeted by criminals looking to steal panels, cabling and other equipment. A number of farms and churches are also monitored.
“We’ve grown massively since 2014 - we sell trust essentially, so over that time we’ve built up our brand and reputation,” said Lee, who says that while turnover for 2017 was in the region of £300,00, already this year the business had generated £640,000 by the end of June.
This success has led to the business recently rebranding - putting its name out there and hoping to become a nationally recognised name in its sector.
Unusually for a security business, the colour scheme chosen for the new branding was pink - it was intentional choice, aimed at reflecting Co-op Secure Response’s alternative approach to security based on a strategic use of technology and manpower, and a progressive approach to social issues.
Lee says the East of England Co-op doesn’t believe in having security guards stationed permanently at the door of a store. Instead, it operates a team of mobile retail support officers who travel where required and specialise in different issues be it anti-social behaviour, theft or security advice.
When it comes to shoplifting, the team are less interested in catching the on-off incidents and more focussed on building up an “offender package” including CCTV evidence, detailing multiple offences by one person.
“We are after the guys who are prolific and who do it for a living,” said Lee.
Some members of the retail support team are trained in offering counselling to Co-op staff who have been victims of anti-social behaviour that might have taken place on their shift.
Members of the team also sit on committees with police officers and councillors to look at how to cut down anti-social behaviour. This, Lee says, goes as a far as working with the police to ascertain whether the offenders require mental health care or other support.
“We don’t just ban people from our stores, we want to find out why there was a problem in the first place,” he added
With so many CCTV cameras to care for, staff in the ARC don’t monitor them during the day unless a panic alarm goes off while overnight images only come up on the screens of surveillance staff if sensors are triggered. If it looks like the person or persons is up to no good the team will call the police and offer descriptions of the offenders - hopefully giving the police a head start in getting to the premises before the criminals have made their getaway.
Time is crucial - Lee says a store burglary typically lasts three to four minutes during which time it is possible for burglars to make away with around £20,000 worth of goods. One product often targeted by criminals is cigarettes, so the team has developed a small tracking device that sits inside a cigarette packet and once activated sends out a signal every five seconds.
“We have a 95% success-rate,” added Lee with pride.