Article 25 June 2021

Teaming up with the University of Cambridge to fight retail crime

We’ve joined forces with University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology in a pioneering partnership to do some research into retail crime, including theft and violence against shop workers.

The innovative research will focus on how businesses can use technology, like CCTV and real-time security alerts, combined with Security Officers on the ground to reduce retail crime. This initiative is the first of its kind in the UK and demonstrates our commitment to work with public and private sector organisations to help keep the nation safe.

We’ll provide the University of Cambridge criminologists with access to anonymous crime data. This will include details on thefts and incidents of violence against shop workers with National Retail Customers sharing information from its stores across the UK.

The team will use this, and data on the number of Security Officers and technology solutions available at each store, to test if a change in the blend of on-site security officers and technology can help reduce crime. Data will be recorded following each change to see if there’s a link between the security set-up and the number of crimes.

The research will also look at different security combinations and other factors like the time of day or store location. This could include increasing the number of Security Officers in stores at times of the day when thefts are more likely or installing more CCTV cameras in sites with low foot-traffic. The University’s team will then use the data to identify trends and new opportunities for us to improve our support for customers.

University of Cambridge criminologists will publish the results to create the first evidence-based approach to retail crime and share this with Police Forces and other organisations in the retail and security industries. While the research will initially focus on one supermarket chain, we’ll invite our national retail customers to take part.

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

“Once again we’re leading the industry with a unique security partnership to help fight crime across the UK. We’re very proud to be working with the University of Cambridge, which has one of the world’s leading institutes in criminology, to develop this data-driven approach to help us stay one step ahead of the criminals targeting our high streets. With retail crime and violence against shop workers on the rise, this research will be key to keeping our customers, people and communities safe.” 

Dr Matthew Bland, Lecturer in Evidence Based Policing, University of Cambridge, said:

“The Institute of Criminology at Cambridge has a long history of working with crime fighting organisations all over the world, to develop the evidence about what works and what doesn’t in reducing harm. We are excited to be able to continue this work by testing innovations in retail security and look forward to sharing our findings with the wider Evidence-Based Policing community in due course”.