Woolworths NZ Rolls out Body Cams to Combat Retail Crime

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By Published On: April 22, 20240 Comments

Woolworths New Zealand is giving staff body cameras following an exponential rise in retail crime and assault.

Woolworths New Zealand will be rolling out body cameras at all its 191 stores this week following a trial that resulted in staff feeling safer, reporting the cameras helped to de-escalate conflict and abuse from customers.

In Australia, the supermarket chain has been trialling the security measure on and off since 2021. In September last year, Coles announced that it would be outfitting staff across 30 stores with body cameras in an ongoing trial to only be turned on in “threatening situations”.

Since 2018, in-store physical assaults more than tripled from about 60 to about 230 in 2024, Woolworths New Zealand has said. Thefts similarly tripled from about 5500 to 15,000 in the same period, with security incidents increasing from about 100 to 780 in the same period.

Woolworths NZ’s head of health safety and wellbeing Denva Wren told RNZ there has also been a rise in the number of verbal threats.

“These range from threats to injure, threats to come back after the store is closed, threats to kill. It’s really awful and unacceptable.”

“When members of the public or offenders are having conversations with our team and understand these [cameras] may actually be turned on, we see the de-escalation occurring and they’re only really being used in a small number of events,” she said.

Woolworths NZ announced late last year that it would be investing $45 million NZD over three years into increasing security measures following a 131 percent increase in physical assaults. 

New Zealand is in the depths of a recession with World Vision reporting food costs increased 56 percent in just one year (2022 – 2023.) Retail crimes such as shoplifting have risen as a result with a recent report showing supermarket shoplifting has increased 78 percent year-on-year in New Zealand.

Retail crime in Australia is also on the rise with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) reporting that over 85 percent of retail workers have experienced abusive behaviour from customers. 

The increasing cost of living is similarly driving shoplifting offenses on both sides of The Tasman. The Victoria Police Commissioner reported that in Victoria alone, Retail theft increased last year by 38.7 percent. The police say hardship is driving more people into first-time offending with up to 40 percent of retail theft offenders recorded as first-time offenders.

About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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